French photographer exhibits Yemen photos [Archives:2006/954/Last Page]

June 12 2006
Lambours with on of his photos.
Lambours with on of his photos.
De Xavier Lambours exhibited 80 photos in a exhibition that kicked off June 6 at the Henri de Monfreid Cultural Center (French Cultural Center) in Sana'a. The collection depicts the French photographer's experience in Yemen, which began with his first visit in 1975. Back in France, his Yemen photos allowed him to have a career in a photo establishment.

“At that time, Yemen was a new place for Europeans,” he recollected. “It wasn't easy to come. I came as an unguided tourist and traveled by taxi with locals, which I liked, because I wanted to travel on my own and get close to Yemenis.”

Arriving in Sana'a, Lambours visited various other cities including Sa'ada, Jibla, Ibb, Thula, Hodeidah, Bait Al-Faqeeh, Zabid, Mokha and Taiz. His second visit occurred in July 2004.

“Yemen has changed a lot now,” he noted. “In 1975, the population of Sana'a was estimated at 50,000 and they were mainly in the Old City, whereas in 2004, the Old City appeared very small to me in the wide expanse of the new part. The whole city houses millions of people.”

However, he indicated that Yemeni customs remain the same, as does its people's mentality in that they are very friendly and welcome guests.

Qat a major threat

Lambours mentioned that qat is more prevalent now than before. “It not only affects people, but also the environment. We find that plastic bags are ubiquitous and this is detrimental to the environment. It's serious pollution,” he added.

In his photos, Lambours doesn't mean to accommodate tourist attractions. Rather, he captures realistic moments from the streets, worksites, landscapes, mountainscapes, etc.

Black and white and color photos

Half of Lambours' 80-photograph collection is black and white while the other half is color. “The black and white are classical. In Yemen, I think I've done everything I wanted in black and white and now I've begun using color. Black and white makes certain scenes stronger and makes it easy to go to the hearts of people. Using color, I go to another world. When people see my photos, I want them to enter my world. When they go to Yemen, I want them to recognize my view of Yemen. It's my personal view of Yemen,” he explained

However, Lambours said he still is discovering the right color for Yemen. His choice of scenes is impulsive – when he sees something really compelling, he snaps it. “The scene must be worthy,” he noted.

Lambours still is working on a photo-supported book written by him and others. Photos to be included mostly aren't tourist-oriented because he chooses to depict real people and show different things.

“In beautiful books, we provide the same boringly beautiful things, but I want to offer an interesting book. I want people to ask questions,” he explained.

Lambours is interested in the richness of Yemeni culture, a fact he encountered during his trips to areas like Munabih in northernmost Yemen and the Isle of Socotra. He particularly was interested when he discovered Aden. “It's a melting pot with its own distinctive features,” he said. He intends taking many photos in the Old City of Sana'a because he's concerned that it might change.

One of Lambours' observations about Yemenis is their openness to other cultures and peoples. For him, the role of art is to bring people closer to each other. “We must learn to live together and stop wars. I dream of a world where people are together, accept differences and learn from each other.”

Lambours concluded with a wish to return to Yemeni locales like Hodeidah governorate's Jabal Bura', as well as discover areas like Al-Jawf and Shabwa.

Lambours is a professional photographer who has shot a fictional movie and participated in photo exhibitions.