Chafic Ahmad Soussi, who died 10 years ago in March, was born into humble beginnings in Sidon in , as Lebanon threw off the shackles of the Ottoman empire and entered French colonial rule. A decade on from his death, and as someone who spent much of his years growing up away from Chafic, I still imagine the sights and sounds that would have greeted him on his daily walk to the studio, hands typically clasped behind his back, in the heart of the city's old town. In the then 18 year old dancer caused a scandal that alerted the world to the luxurious and decadent lifestyle of the international jet-set in Rome that soon would become known as La Dolce Vita. Acting almost as a photojournalist, he shot functions, rallies and state visits. In the early days, both Chafic and Anis shared the responsibility for snapping everything from passport photographs to single and family portraits. That man was my grandfather, and though his now ramshackle studio in the ancient port city of Sidon may have closed for business more than two decades ago, his year career saw him capture the many faces of an ever-changing nation.
He would have made his way past the busy market traders with their leathery, sun-damaged skin, along the rough, dirt-covered ground and by the vast indoor warren of souks. But, for Chafic himself, it was the lure of the streets that proved to be the making of a career that spanned civil wars and foreign invasions. The photos were published in magazines all over the world, including the famous American weekly Life. In French newspapers reported her mysterious disappearance from a Paris cabaret after writing a single word on a paper in her dressing room: Studio Soussi, as it became known, grew to be a prominent fixture of the region's business landscape. Share via Email Two sisters by Chafic Soussi, circa One picture depicts a young Anwar Sadat , years before he became Egypt's president, meeting one-time Lebanese president Camille Chamoun and six-time premier Saeb Salam; another captures a relaxed Riad el-Solh, Lebanon's first post-independence prime minister and "father of the nation", who was assassinated in Jordan in Acting almost as a photojournalist, he shot functions, rallies and state visits. That man was my grandfather, and though his now ramshackle studio in the ancient port city of Sidon may have closed for business more than two decades ago, his year career saw him capture the many faces of an ever-changing nation. The majority of her parts were in euro-westerns where her dark looks made her a natural at playing Mexicans. He would have breathed the heavy, hot, salt-filled air that swept in from the Mediterranean and glanced at the hanging meat and colourful array of fruit and vegetables that packed the market stalls. The studio's immediate clientele were to be found on Sidon's worn streets, from where the city's locals, initially driven by curiosity, embraced the opportunity to pose for studio-based shots. Still a teenager, he readily accepted an invitation to join his elder brother Anis in opening up a photographic workshop in this bustling Biblical city — the first enterprise of its kind ever to be established in Lebanon's predominantly Muslim south. Surviving images, many of which I gathered from the studio's crumbling interior in the months following Chafic's death at 82, portray men, women and children of varying religious faiths. She also appeared in the thriller A In the then 18 year old dancer caused a scandal that alerted the world to the luxurious and decadent lifestyle of the international jet-set in Rome that soon would become known as La Dolce Vita. Italian postcard by Rotalcolor, Milano Milan , nr. Italian authorities threatened her with a three year jail sentence and she quickly returned to Paris where striptease was permitted at the time. Chafic was also commissioned to document murders, accidents and arrests, working at crime scenes and in the morgue. The public was a mix of playboys, film stars like Linda Christian and Elsa Martinelli, and aristocrats, who fled when the police arrived. In the early days, both Chafic and Anis shared the responsibility for snapping everything from passport photographs to single and family portraits. A true photographic pioneer once plied his trade on the streets of Lebanon's south. Chafic was forced to learn the art of photography on the job and Anis introduced the tinting techniques that would not only become synonymous with the studio itself, but also come to occupy much of his own working life. And, when he arrived at the foot of the studio's wooden door, he would have been ready to capture the lifeblood of Lebanon's south. Chafic Ahmad Soussi, who died 10 years ago in March, was born into humble beginnings in Sidon in , as Lebanon threw off the shackles of the Ottoman empire and entered French colonial rule.
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