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Beirut Photo Contest: LAU students, faculty win 5 of 6 prizes

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Dr. John McGill's portraits of a Lebanese hotel doorman and a Jordanian soldier.

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Christian Assaly's photo depicts the coexistence of different religions in Lebanon.

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The contrasts of the Orient from Rita Saad's feminine perspective.

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One of the photos taken by Rayan Keyrouz.

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Raghad Gaood's photo shows a diversity of architectural styles in Beirut.

Click any image to view all five pictures.

July 31, 2008—

Out of the six winners of this year’s Beirut Photo Contest, five—four students and a faculty member—were from the LAU family. Participants conveyed the theme of “The Orient: Land of Contrasts” through images of architecture, people, and nature, exhibited at the UNESCO Palace in mid-July.

Assistant Professor in the Beirut School of Business John McGill, who won the first prize, presented portraits of people from several Middle Eastern countries that showed differences in clothing, age, and culture.

“I mostly take photographs of people. For me, it’s a way of meeting people here in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. It helps me to understand them as individuals,” he explained.

Though always keen on arts in general, McGill felt particularly interested in this form of artistic expression when he took a photography class as an undergraduate.

“To take good photos, you need to involve three things: your head (choice of subject), your hand (knowledge of technique), and your heart,” McGill said. “Of the three, photographing from the heart is the most important. Anyone can learn which f stop to set. I put my heart into my photography—that’s my advantage,” he added.

Graphic design student Christian Abou Assaly came second, followed by Rita Saad, who graduated in the spring and is currently in New York specializing in photography.

Abou Assaly said, “The first things that came to my mind were religion, war and difference.” He found contrasts within the capital, Beirut, as well as the old market of Jounieh by focusing on architecture and people.

Third-year architecture student Raghad Gaood chose to present the contrast between classical and modern architecture, because it “reflects the inner beauty of the city of Beirut” and relates to her major. Gaood came sixth after another LAU student, Rayan Keyrouz.

A panel of experts, which included photography professors from various universities in Lebanon, judged the participants without knowing their names based on their entire portfolio—between three and five photos—rather than an individual photograph.

Photography instructor at the LAU Byblos campus Bassam Lahoud, who helped the participating students by discussing the theme with them and giving them essential instructions, said “the contest helps people discover and explore their society.”

Wild Discovery Travel and Tourism organizes the event annually. Usually more than 200 contestants participate in the competition, but this year the turnout was low—between 70 and 80 professional and amateur photographers—due to the political situation at the time of the portfolio-submission deadline.

McGill received a ticket for two to Oman, including airfare and hotel fees. He plans to make the trip in October. In 2004, he had also won the first prize, tickets to Paris, which he had given to a newly wed couple from LAU as a present.


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