Nov 25, 2013

Mission Accomplished: TEDxAzmiSt and Red Bull SoundClash Lebanon

The only fact that I spent last night with my all-time favorite Lebanese underground band, Mashrou’ Leila, is enough to get my hyped for the coming month, well how about meeting one of the most impeccably attractive voices of all and not recognizing her until the day after? Yes, I met Hindi Zahra and I couldn’t even recognize her then.

However, my morning was totally different.

A team of photographers had invaded the corridors of Al Safadi Cultural Center for the occasion of covering TEDxAzmi main event on November 23rd 2013, and I was to coach them throughout the day. 

They received well my hints and tips and therefore were more than ready to cover the event. We shared lenses and we exchanged batteries, I saw every one of them putting effort into getting those shots and making history until next year where the event’s assumed to get bigger and better. I never felt any prouder to have been the one to cover such an event from A to Z, with the help of my fellow photographers who were stars of the night.

“We act like ninjas” I kept telling them, and our black TEDx Tshirts served us well in this aspect. Rim, Rym, Farah, Lina, Fawaz, Abdallah, Rouham and Leila were the ones in charge of snapping those precious moments, for all the TEDx enthusiasts out there to enjoy later on and to share along. Having successfully gotten through with the event and having finished with collecting their photos, it was time I hit Beirut, again, to make it to the Forum De Beyrouth for my first professional photography job ever, covering the Red Bull’s SoundClash event hosting both of Mashrou’ Leila and Who Killed Bruce Lee.

The taste of Tripoli, TEDxAzmiSt and my fellow friends and colleagues back there was still in the back of my mouth, the faces I had met, the emotions we shared, the enthusiasm I was enthralled with, the happy faces and the gorgeous smiles, they were all put on hold for it was time to be disciplined. I had to be there to “work” for an organization, for a company. They had expectations, they had rules and they assumed I would do a good job, based on my portfolio. That certain issue left me all uncomfortable throughout the event, I felt all tied up. Yet, here’s the fun part.

The night started out with myself and the three other photographers gathering out in the middle of the arena, overlooking both stages where bands will be fighting off. It was time to put up a plan and assign roles in order to cover as much as possible. In the end, the event was extremely huge. More than 2,500 registered attendees, along with the invitees and the bands. With the entire rumble and the overly sized stages, it felt nearly impossible for me to cover such an event, even with all the gear we had. Decided to suck it up, and take it easy as I always do. Little by little, things started to work out pretty well.

Knowing I had already been with Mashrou’ Leila, it was more than obvious that I’d stick with the band for as long as possible, since they were already used to me and they were somewhat familiar with me. And that was totally true, Haig and Firas were so relaxed they actually started posing for me sometimes, all while Hamed was busy memorizing the lyrics and using Yamli every once in a while. A bit later it was Carl and Ibrahim who joined along, Hindi Zahra, whom I never had even slightly recognized that night, the thing I had regretted the most even with the tiniest fact that I was a few INCHES away from her, and them, Zahra was already there was enjoying the band’s company as well. Not to mention Karim of course, the band manager. Right after I had enough with the intimate personal shots of the members prior to the actual performance, it was time for a group photo.

The band was up in no time, and I did my best to catch the best shots I could ever take, god be my witness. It was the gear I had that forced me to stay in that corner of wide angles and Hi ISO for the entire night, which got me so frustrated I couldn’t even pull it up together and go through the night without resting every 15 minutes and taking a sip of water here and there. Yet, and with all the fatigue and the pressure I had, I assume I did a good job. In the end, I was chosen for a reason, and no matter what had happened earlier that day, the reason remains valid no matter what.

The moment it was all done with, and right after handing out my photos to the communication team, I felt extremely happy to bump into a taxi at the door that happily drove me home, where I had thrown my stuff around and flew right in bed. It was those few seconds right before I totally fell asleep where It all came back to me. I wouldn’t forget the chicken sandwich I snatched right from between the band’s boxes, I would never forget Elie, the Strobe operator who offered me his seat on top of that pillar where he was working, the morning brief for the photography team at TEDx, my breakfast that day which was nothing but two pieces of “petit four”, the amount of times I had to lay down whenever possible to ease my back pain a little bit, the light setting at Safadi that almost ruined all my photos up from the stage, the children’s faces staring at my lens whenever I jumped out in front of them, the way we gathered in the center of nowhere inside the Forum for not being able to find any decent seating, the thrill of being there among 2,500 more people and surrounded by such a humongous sound system that would shake every cell in your body. It was all but a dream, a dream that needed to end and call it a wrap.

This is to all of you, Mashrou' Leila Fans and TEDxAzmiSt enthusiasts :)

All pictures above are taken by me, Natheer Halawani.
All pictures related to SoundClash event are courtesy of Red Bull Corporation.

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