Searching for Hidden Beauty Across The Middle East

By Adam Baidawi
02 January 2019
Middle East, Photography
Photos: Anna Dobos
With filmic tones and youthful outlook, 27-year-old photographer Anna Dobos is casting the region in a new light

“I hesitate to call myself a photojournalist, maybe more of a casual documentarian,” says Anna Dobos, a Hungarian-American photographer who’s spent two years capturing film-like visions of the Middle East.

Dobos’ work toes a line somewhere between dreamlike and confronting – an aesthetic that she says is informed by her background in fashion and music photography.

“I like showing the beauty of a place, even if it’s not always immediately obvious.”

Tripoli

Woman makes a grocery purchase from street in Tripoli, Lebanon

Her most recent project in the region is Home Is Where The War Is, an upcoming documentary centred on refugee repatriation. This trip is the latest in a prolonged relationship between Dobos and the Middle East – one that began with a visit to Gaza in the wake of the bloody 2014 conflict.

“I learned so much about the situation on the ground that I never could have gleaned from the news, which really started my interest in not only documentary photography but the region as a whole,” she says.

Aside from not a small number of far-out experiences – she recently roadtripped through Iraq, winding through a bumpy mountain road to Saddam Hussein’s former palace complex – Dobos’ journey across the Middle East has given her a new perspective on an old narrative.

Erbil

Downtown Erbil, Iraq Kurdistan

“I feel like the culture of the region is viewed too often as repressive if not downright aggressive, thanks to the media’s obsession with Islamist extremism and conflict. Of course, it’s patriarchal and some governments and communities do live up to that hype, but what’s rarely shown is how intense the culture of hospitality and level of communal interaction there is,” she says. “People will gladly invite you to join their table or to eat at their home and wrestle the bill from your hands if you attempt to pay for your dinner; generosity is a matter of pride.”

Ultimately, Dobos says, there’s a nuance and diversity to the Middle East that she wishes more people understood.

Hebron

Palestinian family harvests olive in Hebron, West Bank

“It’s variety of languages and dialects spoken, religious variations and attitudes, the relations of the countries to one another, the cultural remnants of colonising powers and the way these things can overlap and stretch across borders in surprising ways. There’s so much rich history that will tell you why things are the way they are, people just need to wade in and have a look,” she says. “But so many don’t.”

Wadi Rum

Wadi Run, Jordan

Tripoli

Old Mercedes models crowd the streets of Tripoli, Lebanon