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Arts and culture

Poupouche: An old passion, revived

BEIRUT | - October 29, 2014, 11h57
Par Sophie Spencer
The not-so-amateur photos of Nabil Tabet, affectionately known as Poupouche, exhibited at Le Gray this week, take us back to a simpler, sexier Lebanon. We are lucky enough to be shown around this exhibition by the photographer himself, Poupouche, or Nabil Tabet, as those who don’t really know him, know him. Les Photos de Poupouche are a selection of photographs the amateur photographer took in the late 1960s and early 1970s, using mainly friends and girlfriends as models.
Having worked in the fashion business for thirteen years, in the French fashion house Chloe and now in the event business, no one knew about Tabet’s hidden talent, he had even forgotten. “Last year I opened a box and I discovered 2000 pictures. I said ‘they are nice, lets see’”.

They certainly are ‘nice’ and friends and family also thought so, encouraging him to hold an exhibition. Although bashful at first, when a friend at Le Gray informed Tabet of their new exhibition area, a light spherical room on the 6th floor at the entrance to Indigo on the roof, he decided to go for it.

With a focus on the female face, although there are apparently plenty of photos of the female form not displayed, most of his models were former friends and girlfriends. “Some of them are dead now, my models. This one, she is dead, but I found her daughter in Qatar who gave me permission to show the photos and who came to the opening.” The exhibition itself is dedicated to another former girlfriend and photographic assistant, Amale Elias.

As we go around the gallery, hearing the stories of the models that are no longer with us, we are reminded of the age of these photographs and the history behind them. Tabet can still remember the details of the scenario and his lighting methods, although some of the models’ names he has forgot!

Most of the photos displayed are the black and white originals from the late 60s and early 70s although some have been juxtaposed with new photoshopped versions of themselves. Although it was Tabet himself who edited the pictures, his preference is towards traditional film photography. “Digital is not the same, in digital you don’t care. You shoot and if it’s not ok you can shoot again and adjust it with Photoshop. At that time you were careful about the smallest details.”

A self taught photographer and developer, working in a vacuum, Tabet tells us of how he would spend night and day in his dark room, experimenting with effects. He also experimented with the scenario.

Although most shots are close-up facials, he explains how more technical shots like the woman who pulls her head out of the water, leaving a seamless trail of water behind, were more technical.

“We had to take this 14 or 15 times, at the end the poor girl had to tell me to stop.”

They got the shot though and we are astonished at how such intricate shots could be captured with such basic equipment. “Just a camera, a simple bubble lamp and sometimes a fan.”

Photography became Tabet’s passion after inadvertently winning an amateur photography competition between friends at a picnic in Zahle.

“For 5 years it was my mad hobby” he explains, “And then I stopped, I don’t know why.”

As we discuss the photos and how he captured them, you can see the passion twinkle in Poupouche’s eyes.

“I’m going to make it my hobby again,” he declares. “I’ll ring you up when I need a model.”

The ‘Photos de Poupouche’ are displayed on the 6th floor of Le Gray hotel.

The exhibition runs until Sunday 2nd November.
#Photographer, #Lebanese_photographers, #Photos, #Photo, #Photo_exhibition, #Exhibition
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