Q: What challenges did you face as a photographer during your time in Lebanon when you photographed young Syrian refugees on Beirut’s streets when there were social and political conflicts?
A: Are you talking about the project – Invisible Children?
A: I never had a conflict. There is an idea in the West that women in the Middle East are oppressed or whatever, and it is not true in many places. I never felt limited working in Lebanon. On the contrary. I had access that men might not have had. The country is in a tough place at the moment and it is sad to witness but it also feels more important to tell the stories. Sometimes the challenge that I might face is when there is a place that I want to photograph, and I have to get permission from the Army, and I do not get it because things are very tense.
Q: Does your architectural background help in your photography work?
A: I think it helps a lot, I have a sense of composition, and I have visual training that becomes like second nature, so I am very aware of the full-frame. I pay attention to every little piece in the frame. I care about my lines being parallel to the frame, so there is architecture in me in the way I subconsciously structure my images.
Q: You traveled a lot in 2018 and 2019, so can you tell us how you manage your personal life?
A: On my travel to Lebanon, I used to take my kids with me when they were younger, and we [used to] spend a long time in the summer. ... Also, now as my father is older, I travel a little more often. It is always a bit of a juggling act, having children here [U.S.] and a father in Lebanon. So, I had a reason to go besides work. And it is an added bonus that I can make work there. When I got the Guggenheim Fellowship, I did not have kids at home anymore [they grew older], my husband was very supportive, and I was able to travel more.
Q: What was the most challenging thing about publishing this book?
A: What was challenging is that I had made a lot of work and had many images that I was happy with, but I cannot use all those images. One has to edit to keep the book a good size to be accessible and not feel redundant. So, it was challenging to delete photos that I was fond of. I always share the images with the women in the photographs, but if their image was not used I had to explain to them that I was sorry, but the publisher could not fit all the work, which is exactly what happened.
Q: Can you tell us about your general experience of talking to children, teens, and women?
A: The women I am photographing now are not children. They are like in their 20s. They have full agency of agreeing and not agreeing and being proactive while working. When I was photographing refugees, the children on the streets, that was a bit different, and I just started asking them where they are from, what they are doing, and where are their parents, and I would buy them water or something.
Q: So, you have worked with teens whom you previously photographed as a kid. What differences did you observe in them after their transition?
A: It is interesting because we all went through puberty at some point. So, ... there is the physicality of the biological changes we all go through, that is just the same, right? ... Some girls get shyer as their bodies develop, and others get more self-confident ... There is a universality about going through the changes but at the same time, every experience is very individual. It was important for me to explore both the universality and the individuality of the experience.
Q: What are your upcoming plans? Are you planning to do another book or any project that you are considering working for?
A: I feel like I have a couple of projects that could turn into books, but I'm not ready yet. One of them could be the windows project [On Either Side of the Window] that I did during COVID lockdown –– I have enough [photos] to make a book. And the mothers and daughters [Unspoken Conversations] could be a book. I am also working on a new project where I am photographing young women in Lebanon only, the younger generation, which is at a cross point. The country is in a tragic place and their stories are very important to me. This work is a self-portrait in some way.