Looking for Leisure
Opening reception: Thursday 12 July 2018, 18:00 to 21:00.
Paid annual leave, introduced in France under the Blum government in June 1936, went hand in hand with vacations at the coast and in the mountains, exploration, hikes and cycling. But it was also the symbol of a dramatic shift in class relations: now workers would sample the pleasures of free time. Since the launch of the first camera for amateur use by Kodak in 1888, the still famous slogan, “you press the button, we do the rest,” came true. Photographic practice was democratized, entering into family circles for use by those who, with little technical know-how, dreamt of capturing moments from daily life, small details or memorable events of family life, friendships, and leisure activities that were henceforth part of social activity.
From the 1920s in Lebanon and across the region, this new kind of photography was in bloom. Brought by soldiers and foreigners passing through, it became quickly and lastingly popular amongst a growing bourgeoisie.
So-called “amateur” photographs from the time reveal the advent of leisure activities – sea outings, tennis matches, alpine ski races – within bourgeois society, an acknowledged colonial inheritance. Leisure time took on various forms, enriching individual and collective experiences.
The selection of photographs presented here, taken between the 1920s and the 1960s by three photographers, offer three distinct looks at accounts of a period in the history of leisure time in Lebanon. They come from the Fouad Debbas Collection, and the Alexandre Medawar collection, preserved by the Arab Image Foundation, Beirut.