Capturing hope with Joanna Tyan
A mother of three and amateur photographer, Joanna Tyan participated in the 99 WOMEN LEBANON project as writer and translator.
Why did you join the 99 WOMEN LEBANON project?
I remember seeing the ad randomly and feeling instantly inspired to join a writing project. What attracted me the most was the idea of being thrown amongst complete strangers and sharing the same experience. Everyone has a different background but if the mind-set only counts, we can build relationships. Enhancing my writing skills was also a main trigger.
What did you do during the project?
I participated to the writing workshops in English. During these workshops, I was asked to watch an episode of the Zyara series and then to write short essays that the story inspired me. I also took part in the translation from French to English and some editing.
What did you think of the experience of the writing workshops? Of the translation phase?
It was therapeutic in so many ways. I was impressed and touched that we could approach so many tough stories with sensibility and grace. This gave me faith to know that there are people around who see the world in a similar manner. The translation phase came just a few days after the Beirut explosion. It gave me focus. By reading intimate stories of hardship, I appreciated my blessings and realized that time waits for no one. It awaked the intrepid warrior in me, with a ferocious will, faith, to hang on to life, to hope, to love, to get out of bed and face a new day in Lebanon.
It was therapeutic in so many ways. I was impressed and touched that we could approach so many tough stories with sensibility and grace.
Can you tell me about a moment (an exchange with the other, a text, a finding…) that caught your attention during these workshops?
The theme that resonated the most in me was women’s self-discovery, acceptance, and uniqueness. During the zoom sessions, the diversity of each point of view was very interesting. One topic, different approaches. Still, we had in common the conviction that every woman is powerful, that her strength that manifests in different ways is increasingly being accepted and loved.
The theme that resonated the most in me was women’s self-discovery, acceptance, and uniqueness.
The 99 LIVE LEBANON project took place as LEBANON was going through a wide range of crises. How did your writing and translation work and the Lebanese news come together?
The blast was a sudden slap. It’s not like a break up or a bad political situation that you see coming. Juts after, during the translation process, I was confronted to very difficult stories of loss that were not mine. It was important for me and even therapeutic. I pray I did them justice. Out of respect for people who needed to express themselves as I did.
What place does literature or art occupy in your life?
I have always been creative. Arts, antiques, culture, architecture, design, writing, poetry, aesthetics are very important and have shaped my eye. Today, I am a photographer. I think I write with my pictures.
Today, I am a photographer. I think I write with my pictures.
Can you tell us about your photography work? When did you start? What are you photographing? What difference do you see between your practice of writing and that of photography?
I have always been a passionate photographer yet an amateur. I have always roamed the streets of Beirut for long outings and taken pictures. My family did not take it seriously, and for decades, I put my dream aside. But I got really sick two years ago… and realized that time waits for no one… I couldn’t get out of bed. My only window to the world was my phone. Late night texting with a unique friend, he picked up without any intention on my potential and encouraged me. I built up on this and headed back to strengthen my confidence and post my work.
I mostly take street photography, for the human connections and contacts are magic. Capturing hope, love, friendship, the positive. I leave aside other dramatic chapters. Writing and photography used to go hand in hand. Then when I helped a photographer with his captions for an international auction, it gave me confidence to settle at only posting the pictures, as a story that unfolds. Another acquaintance of mine who is a painter told me they complement each other, and I could not agree more.
I mostly take street photography, for the human connections and contacts are magic. Capturing hope, love, friendship, the positive.
As part of the project, you wrote in English. What motivates the choice of this language for you?
My mother is English educated. She got her masters in education from Harvard. Communicating emotionally for me is in English. It is the language I read and have always felt comfortable with. French is for delicate, fine, subjects that require more tact and time.
What do you expect from the future piece 99 LIVE LEBANON? How would you like it to be shown to the public?
I feel the overall experience is of truthfulness. Raw emotions. No barriers. Authenticity. These aspects have drawn me to the project and knitted a community of people coming together with open minds and heart to touch with words to heal. Because some people are afraid still to talk… Or cannot, or feel misunderstood. So they retrieve in a protective shell. I expect the project to be a catalyst for inner liberty.
What are your projects, plans, dreams for 2021?
I hope I will get more and more grounded in photography. Learn more about the techniques and be able to finally attend a workshop or university class to improve. I would like as well to start writing a book…. Where I would give thanks and gratitude for all the people that have crossed my path and forged the woman that I am today…
© Joanna Tyan