‘My Distorted City’: Linda Al-Khoury chronicles Amman’s architecture

Linda Al-Khoury at her cafe, Fann Wa Chai. (Photos: Yezen Saadah, Jordan News)
AMMAN — In the heart of Amman's bustling artistic scene, an audience recently gathered at Ma3mal 612 Think Factory to listen to a lecture by Linda Al-Khoury, a professional photographer whose lens unravels the hidden narratives woven into the city's architecture. اضافة اعلان

The event, organized by Identity and the City, a pioneering program for art and social transformation in Jordan, illuminated Khoury's upcoming book, "My Distorted City," which journeys audiences through the overlooked and dilapidated structures that bear witness to Amman's evolution.

Khoury, whose work typically focuses on the city’s architecture, said: “People are always saying there isn’t something to take a picture of, but there is. There is always something to take a picture of.”

Linda Al-Khoury speaking about her latest project, “My Distorted City”, at Ma3mal 612 Think Factory. 

“The problem is with our eyes …  We don’t see the beauty.”

Divided into distinct segments , Khoury spotlights some of Amman’s forsaken corners, vivdly presenting roads, homes, and stairs. At the lecture, she added, “Everything (reflects) my relationship with the city, my view on the city, and how Amman has changed over the past few years.”

In an interview with Jordan News, Khoury said that her latest opus primarily focuses the architectural changes in Amman. She explained, “It reflects Amman’s developments during my generation and those who have lived in the city in the late 70s or early 80s. They saw these strange changes to the city.”

Each photo displayed in “My Distorted City” — whether of a shady sidewalk or an abandoned historic building — was shot with black-and-white film. This deliberate choice comes from Khoury’s fondness of the medium. “I love the format (film) a lot.,” she said.

“There’s a special connection with a film camera. ... You don’t see the image until you develop it, and it’s very good practice for your eye and your brain.”

Guiding the viewerAs for shooting in monochrome, Khoury was also deliberate with that choice. “Color adds information, so it’s a bit distracting,” she explained. “With black-and-white, you have this neutral balance that guides the viewer to the message.”

In addition to her work as a photographer, Khoury is also known for curating the Image Festival Amman, an annual international photography festival organized every May since 2011. This year’s festival — its 11th edition —  displayed a total of 27 exhibitions in 14 different locations in Amman.

Khoury’s imprint on Amman also extends to the local culture scene as she is also the founder of the now-popular cafe Fann Wa Chai in Jabal Al-Weibdeh. The cafe was founded in 2013, and established with the goal of merging culture, arts, and the people of Amman in a space of intimacy and relaxation.

Capturing and documenting reality
For Khoury, photography is an act of both capturing and documenting reality by using available surroundings presented through day-to-day experiences.

“Photography, from any perspective, is about capturing reality,” she said.

“You are documenting what you see. There might be some manipulation or editing involved, but in the end, it’s reality.”

Beyond mere capturing, photography to Khoury also holds a profound potential for storytelling. Personally, Khoury feels as she hold a responsibility to capture the moment wherever she may be. “I love to listen to stories,” she said.

“As a photographer, I need to document my surroundings.”

To bring these stories to life, a realm of dedication is required behind the lens.

“It takes a long time to produce projects,” Khoury said of the challenges to her artistic process.

“It’s not as easy as ‘I’m going to take the camera and I’m ready to take the picture,’ because you might not be ready that day to take pictures,” she added.

“It’s very personal.”

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