Photographer Saleh Al-Rifai warns in his book “Who Creates the Leader’s Image?” (2022), subjecting the photographer to the image to political and social subordination, as this is domination that threatens the independence of the image. Our history, he says, and our life and the future of humanity is based on documenting the photographic situation in all fields; It is necessary to understand the leader, to have a developed visual culture. Also, his book was born out of the Arab library’s need for it, and he presented half a century of his experience with the camera. He is a journalist who worked as a photographer at Dar Al-Sayyad until the late seventies, then moved to work as a photojournalist at the Associated Press from 1980 to 2000. This work in such media and news organizations that politicize information and support it in the way it tells it according to its goals, prompted him to work on The political image, and this is what he went to in his book; Especially since we are in this Arab country afflicted with the disease of leaders, so everyone in his profession is a leader, but rather a king; So we see the sellers of cheese, falafel, shoes and sweets, each a leader or a king in his profession, so you see him writing on the door of his shop: The king of chickens, the king of pins, the king of hats, the king of shoes, the king of kings. Hunger for leadership, leadership that is insatiable, how not when leaders are coming to it from deprivation.
Al-Rifai wonders whether the image of this leader can be changed, and whether “filtering” and polishing the image is necessary for the success of the image. And between these two questions / questions, Al-Rifai works his book. A contemplative thinker, affectionate towards the children as he embraces them, or while he is in a bowing position – depending on his height, to listen to their demands or the grievances that their families are exposed to. Rather, if the leader did not adorn himself with medals and swords, given that most of the leaders are from the military, then we will see his pictures and his face has been decorated with powders to hide the real face, so we do not see pictures of his victims.
“Al-Rifai, in his photographs of leaders in their various specializations: revolutionary, separatist, heroic, and agrarian… Over the course of fifty years of his work in photography, he tried to capture the existential image of the leader, regardless of the degree of his leadership.”
In his book, which includes an introduction and seven chapters, Al-Rifai reviews the history of the “portrait” face image and its constant blinks of light that reveal a representative or natural moment from oil painting to the photograph. He also explains the ideology of the image, the concept of the portrait image, and the concept of the political image in the world. He mentions that the first political photo in the world was taken of an American president, the sixth president, John Quincy Adams 1825-1829, taken by photographer Philip Haas in 1843. Then he talks about the emergence of the political photo in Lebanon, from the beginnings to the reality of the journalistic political photo, and about the controversy of relationship, photo and leadership, wondering First: the leadership of the image, or the image of the leadership? He appends it to a selection of photos of Lebanese leaders from memory.-
Al-Rifai, in his pictures of leaders with their various specializations: revolutionary, separatist, heroic, agricultural, etc… Over the course of fifty years of his work in photography, he tried to capture the existential image of the leader, regardless of the degree of his leadership. With its dust, smells, madness, and alienation before falsifying it and concealing the tragic meaning of its truth; For his ignorance, arrogance and blood. The image can promote and ridicule, through miniaturization, glorification and degradation, of the pose or shot that the photographer wants to photograph of the leader or the target. Of course, it is possible that the picture taken by the photographer – here Salih Al-Rifai – will direct criticism, and the criticism may be harsh and harsh against the leader whom he portrays with a grim face. The limbs and parts are taut as if it were a stone statue, and woe, woe to this leader, he was political, economic, artistic or literary, especially if he had power, and he had hyenas, wolves and sharks supervising his appearance with criteria and standards in which he looks like angels – while he is one of the masters of crimes, so he laughs. Or a smile, or a movement that diminishes his prestige, so the photographer catches it like a sniper while aiming his bullet at his victim / target.--
The photographer is the one who takes a picture of his goal to show us the true leader in a picture that lacks its mysteries and sanctity. the leader as it is; There are no vague or vague signs in the photograph taken by the photographer, and that divine overflow has departed from it as his hyenas used to photograph it, so we see the seed of evil in it naked while it is watered from the blood of its victims. And the servants, while he celebrates the beauty of his wealth, the beauty of his crimes, while he is very ecstatic; He hears and sees people searching for their day’s sustenance, which he stored in his stores. An image that reflects the abnormality of thought as the insufficiency of thought. It is not the language of the letters/words; The sound of the words that will accompany or unite with the image of the cinematic shot. The image of the photographer here in “Who Photographs the Leader” is that the image in its silence speaks, or that its contemplator hears and sees in it what and who was hidden, what were secrets.
The image that the photographer portrays is an intellectual activity that goes towards the truth – let us bear in mind that there are many, many images that the photographer takes are subject to strict censorship, and what we see after submission is not an image of the truth, because it is an image that has been deleted and cut in order to obscure the conflict / drama that In it, which distorts the image of the leader, and that the picture that the photographer photographed is a picture of thought – it may be a dialogue with the self, but after he took it, that is, he photographed what he photographed, he presents a visual situation for us to see it with the eye.