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The Beirut Sun Tanners

© Vianney Le Caer

Beirut Sun Tanners is a photo series depicting a group of local men swimming and sunbathing at the American University of Beirut Beach in Lebanon. We follow these men of various generations involved in a cult of physical appearance playfully socializing, sometimes praying, undisturbed by the moments of leisure unfolding around them.

Lebanon remains a country that relies on an extremely fragile peace consensus after decades of wars and civil war. Shot between 2015 and early 2016, at the pinnacle of the neighbouring Caliphate of the Islamic State, war was an everyday topic of conversation then. Abu Khodor recalled he had been coming to the beach every day for the past 25 years and when Israel bombed the country in 2006, he remembers being the only person on the beach, sunbathing and watching the Tzahal fighter jets as they flew above. These men frequently joked about ISIS: self-conscious about their unorthodox methods for praying, they could often be heard saying: ‘’If Daesh were here to see us praying this way, they would behead us straight away.’’

Beyond the problematics tied to its geopolitical context, this photo essay also poses the question of sexual and social norm representation. The homo-erotic interpretation one could construct from a Western point of view could be counter-balanced by the relativity of social norms among different societies: perhaps men just interact with one another differently in Middle-East?

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