French Lebanese photographer Christian Ghammachi is addicted to solitude. The desolation of Africa’s open geography doesn’t frighten him. It energizes him and tests his character. A tattoo in block print etched across his forearm spells his operating model out with an ancient quote by Heraclitus: “A man’s character is his fate.”
I met Ghammachi at Showcase Gallery on Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, where Forsaken, his first solo show pulled me right back in body and soul to Mama Africa. His photographs were all shot on treks through African wastelands, many of them in Namibia, Kenya, and South Africa. Shipwrecks, sun-bleached seal skulls, and desert. Several of my favorites were shot in Kolmanskop, a town in Namibia that was a De Beer’s diamond mine until the 1950’s. Ghammachi was attracted to these places because he believes that “The desert or the sea will take over. Whatever we build over the course of our lives is eventually going to become part of nature.”
Some people are not comfortable with their own company. Being alone terrifies them. This show will introduce extreme extroverts to agoraphobia and night sweats. Introspective types crave the growth that comes from endless solitude. Forsaken will seduce them with open horizons. Emiratis who remember Dubai before it became an overgrown garden of glimmering skyscrapers may especially appreciate the desert shots.
Christian Ghammachi puts it this way: “Whether you are the photographer or the person looking at the photograph, the way you feel [emotionally] at the time will determine how the work effects you.” He has taken great pains to print the photographs using top advances in technology that will preserve them forever. Some of the work, like Storm has been infused with metallic elements that give the wind swept desert the effect of an angry sea.
A former lawyer, Ghammachi enjoyed the high life of the very successful corporate king in Cape Town, South Africa. Incidentally, we were both there at the same time and probably rubbed shoulders at art openings and lavish costume parties during the years when we were both living high (but secretly wishing we could give up the material glamor and become full time creatives).
He’s recently quit the legal field, thrown all his chips on the table, and taken the gamble to become a full time photographer. Soon he’ll trek all alone on his motorcycle up and down Africa, from Cape Town to Sana’a, carrying everything he needs right on his back—Tent, food, matches, tripod, camera. Funding pending, his journey titled, “Two Wheels Across,” will be the subject of a television series, which I can’t wait to watch.
Christian Ghammachi is an artist who conceives his best work when he’s physically and mentally pushed to the edge of fear. He compares photography to a passionate relationship that surges and frays but is always eventually returned to.
‘Forsaken’ will be at Showcase Gallery on Alserkal Avenue through 18 November, 2013. For timings and additional information go here.
You can watch the trailer for “Two Wheels Across” here.
Image Credits: Courtesy of Showcase Gallery and Christian Ghammachi