Here’s a compelling thought: All ye hipsters wouldn’t have to take photos of downtown Beirut using those Instagram filters and retro settings if the old historic buildings still existed.
Mimicking the past would be as simple as taking a snapshot of, well, the present. So check this out: in 1992, there were 1600 historic buildings downtown. Today that number has whittled down to 250. According to Lebanese filmmaker Firas Khnaisser, the destruction of these buildings wasn’t due to the civil war but to large real estate companies moving into the city and destroying the old buildings to build large commercial towers instead.
Khnaisser and collaborator-producer Samer Ghorayeb have now been singled out as one of 15 finalists for an international competition to win funding for his vision to reclaim Lebanon’s cultural heritage.
The main component of his Nostalgia project is an interactive website that would allow users to gather and submit images, video, text and personal testimonies about historic buildings that no longer exist. A mobile app will also allow users to upload memories onto an interactive map of Beirut to create a kind of virtual archive.
We don’t take pictures to know what we’re seeing now, we take pictures because it makes us feel good to know that years later, when nostalgia for that moment comes around, we’ll have a scrapbook ready to preserve the precious memories and relics of our past.