“It’s basically just my friends, photographed nude in my studio”
Published in Beirut, Cold Cuts is a photography magazine highlighting queer culture in the region. The first issue comprised just one story: a narrative about two drag queens getting ready to appear in a local nightclub. At first glance, I had assumed the blocks of text threaded through the magazine were simply photo captions, but on closer inspection, I was delighted to discover that the text actually formed parts of a single story that unfolded across the course of the magazine in tiny snippets. It’s a bold move to devote an entire magazine to one piece, but that editorial choice made for a beautiful reading experience.
This second issue of Cold Cuts has been eagerly anticipated at the Stack office. Designed like an enormous broadsheet newspaper (the magazine is actually printed on newsprint), this issue has the same intimacy and formal playfulness as Cold Cuts’ debut. But instead of concentrating on just one feature, this time editor Mohamad Abdouni has chosen to include multiple stories.
Over Zoom, Mohamad gave us an image guide to the issue.
“This is an image of Alexandre Paulikevitch, a baladi dancer. Baladi is more generally — and falsely — known as belly dancing, which is a Western term that Alexandre has decided to let go of. ‘Baladi’ means ‘country’. So: the dance of my country. This dance is a kind of folklore. Alexandre Paulikevitch is a very prominent figure in the queer community in Beirut. He is a fantastic dancer, a fantastic performer. I took these photos on the beach in a very hidden spot that Alex goes to often and that he decided to share with me. It’s in the north of Lebanon and it’s a place that very few people know about. Alex goes there when he wants to find moments of peace. He gets to be completely in the nude there.”
“This is a picture of a hand holding a fish. The image accompanies a funny little recipe for salt crusted fish, by my partner, who is a chef. We went up one weekend to his parent’s house in Lebanon with a bunch of friends and he gave us a ‘food for dummies’ course. That’s his hand in the picture. It’s an intimate shot, but I don’t shy away from admitting how intimate Cold Cuts is as a project. I see the magazine as a kind of photo diary, not just of my own experiences, but of my affinities. I’ll include artists that I want to work with; artists I have admired or that I admire; performers; stories I discover from different communities and histories. The magazine is a record of my own discovery of queer culture and queer communities in the SWANA (South West Asia And North Africa) region.”
“This is an image by the photographer Tania Traboulsi, who is a very dear old friend of mine. The image features Andrea (bottom left) and Melanie Coxxx (bottom right), plus their respective mothers, who are sat behind them on the couch. Andrea and Melanie are regular faces on the booming Beirut drag scene — and whilst most performers in Lebanon are forced to hide what they do from their families, Melanie and Andrea don’t. I love this piece because it highlights two very positive queer stories about life in Arab families.”
“You probably know Maya Moumne at Stack; Maya and Hatem (Imam) are the co-founders and editors in chief at Journal Safar. This is a photo that I took of Maya, that is part of a series called ‘Naked Friends’. It’s basically just my friends, photographed nude in my studio. The portraits are mostly inspired mostly by Caravaggio paintings. I wanted to include people who happen to be my friends but are also influential members of the queer community in Beirut. Maya is part of the design and art world, but other portraits in the series are of activists, researchers, actors, and night-life personalities.”
“This piece is by Jeanne et Moreau, which is the pseudonym of two women photographers in a long-distance relationship. Here’s a little blurb they wrote about their work for the issue, as I think it would be nice if the description of the project was in their own words: ‘Jeanne et Moreau’s communication relies on digital technology: Facebook, Facetime, Instagram, emails, Whatsapp, Skype etc. They mainly use photography and video, creating a conversation space where they can project emotions, fantasy and desire. They construct a shared visual diary that encompasses both time spent together and apart, while the phone allows the virtual narrative to unfold.'”