The Photographs of Amman Artist Bashar Tabbah

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A refurbished railway car from the Hijaz Railway, photographed amid the desert scenery of Wadi Ramm

In January 2016, the mastheads of ACOR’s website and blog were updated to feature a new series of evocative images of Jordan’s varied natural and archaeological landscape. These stunning images were taken by photographer Bashar Tabbah, a friend and, as it turns out, neighbor of ACOR who has graciously allowed ACOR to showcase his beautiful artwork.

Bashar is a world traveler, a person enthusiastic about history and archaeology, and a self-taught photographer who is building a name for himself as an artist.

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Overlooking Jerash’s oval forum in the spring

He will soon publish his first book of photographs, A Map and a Lens: Jordan, a Photography and Historical Exploration. The book is based on a project he started in 2013 to capture Jordan’s most fascinating and frequently overlooked archaeological and religious sites. He photographed and researched dozens of sites and wrote short summaries about the archaeology and historical background of each. “This book took 52 Fridays,” said Bashar, “and for a year I would do research and write every evening and then go out every Friday to verify my GPS recordings (of site locations) and take photographs.”

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The carved reliefs adorning the 2nd-century B.C. palace of Iraq al-Amir

Bashar’s interest in photography started when he was a college student visiting England in 2004 and was given a Fujifilm FinePix S-7000 digital camera as a gift. He started out just snapping photographs for fun but then later joined an online art community through which he was able to submit photographs for critique and feedback, and also get advice on improving his technical command of his camera. At the same time, he gained valuable experience with image editing software packages like Photoshop and has since become quite adept at making the most of such valuable tools in photography.

By day, Bashar is the general manager of the Amman International Hotel , a four-star hotel situated across from Jordan University and just up the road (or across the wadi) from ACOR. As the hotel is owned by the Tabbah family, Bashar has flexibility in managing his time, but he can also never be too far away from his responsibilities, meaning he has to save up his holiday time and earnings to make room for his passion for photography.

Ajloon Castle
The hills behind Ajloun castle at sunset

The son of a Jordanian father and an English mother, Bashar has a deep love for Jordan’s landscapes and ancient sites. When he was a child, he would accompany his mother on informal tours she led for family and visitors to sites in Jordan and Palestine. He said, “My dual heritage puts me in the perfect position to bridge the gap between east and west. Fluent Arabic and English makes it easier for me to research the sites that I photograph and I feel I can move fluidly in both worlds, whether I am photographing mosques in Turkey or castles in England.”

Aaron Tomb
Aaron’s tomb amid a star-filled night in Petra

“At the age of about 25, I realized that even if I couldn’t achieve all my childhood dreams, that with a camera I could bridge the gap and achieve my dreams on my own terms. When I am taking pictures I really feel free, and that feeling of freedom keeps me content.” – Bashar Tabbah

Mutah battle site
Scattered architectural remains adorning the site of the Battlefield of Mu’tah

Recently, Bashar has been experimenting with macrophotography—taking close-up photographs of small everyday items. For example, he has a series of photographs of the gears of textile manufacturing equipment that the Tabbah family brought from the UK in the 1960s. For years, the family produced woven cloth for the traditional Arab men’s headgear known as kufiyya or hatta. Sadly, these machines have been sitting idle in the factory in Zarqa for nearly ten years as fashions are now changing and imported Chinese textiles have made the business unprofitable.

Bashar has many other photography projects running and more planned for the future. “I have projects that will keep me busy for the next ten years! There is really no end in sight.” He describes himself as a “semi-professional photographer,” motivated by a love of photography and, as such, really just wants his photographs to be seen and appreciated. His website, A Map and a Lens, hosts his complete catalog of photographs from Jordan and other countries, including the West Bank, Syria, Egypt, and Morocco.

All pictures in this blog post were taken by Bashar Tabbah.

Written by Sarah Harpending

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