In Serge Najjar’s playful images, architecture is punctuated with the human form to make precise, poetic abstractions. Shot mostly in Beirut, where Najjar lives, the images are on view in his first solo show in the U.S., “A Closer Look at the Ordinary,” opening today at Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago and on view until February 25. In the spare, geometric images, Najjar frames modernist windows and balconies or expanses of pastel cement, interspersed with men and women who pose or go about their business, carrying a bucket or looking wistfully at the view. Najjar, a lawyer, took up photography in 2011 and quickly found a following on Instagram for his particular vision. His images are in part a celebration the city’s exuberant architecture, the result of a boom in construction after the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990. Inspired by the work of artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly and Alexander Rodchenko, Najjar’s approach is closer to street photography—he depends on instinct and luck to find his subjects and capture them at the right moment. As he says in a statement from the gallery, “There is no such thing as an ideal place to photograph, or an ideal city. Architecture inspires me, but my whole approach towards photography is to focus on what people consider as common… the people I photograph are complete strangers. I never plan where I go and what or who to shoot. My images are faithful to what I see. And every single Saturday morning I am convinced that I will never capture the picture I had the chance to capture the week before…. It is a thin line between the ugly and the beautiful, the ordinary and the extraordinary, between chaos and order.”
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What a delight to discover Najjar’s work these poetic images. Beautiful.