This is a documentary photography project about Lebanese-Americans, about my family. My dad’s parents emigrated from Lebanon in the 1920s. My Sitto − my grandmother− immigrated in 1928, when she was 19; and my Giddo − my grandfather − immigrated in 1920, when he was 21. They had known each other in Lebanon and, when my Sitto arrived in Niagara Falls, my Giddo was already there. They were married and had four sons: Joe, Eli, Rich and Bobby.
Rich is my dad and he has raised me with pride and awareness about being Lebanese. He has also always reached out to people of other cultures, especially when he married my mom, who is Italian-American. My parents have shown me how similar two different cultures are.
I believe that through documentary work we can learn each other’s stories and work towards understanding. Through documentary photography, we have a chance to see into people’s lives and see people as who they are and not who the stereotypes decide they are.
I began photographing in March of 2005. There are some older photographs but the majority are from 2005. During that time, I made several trips to visit my family in Northern Virginia, Norcross, Georgia, which is right outside of Atlanta, and Birmingham, Alabama.
This first set of photographs are of my cousin Paul and his wife Elizabeth and their two kids, Catherine and Christopher, in Norcross, Georgia.
The following photographs were taken in Birmingham where my cousin Theresa and her husband Paul and their four kids live. Birmingham has a large Lebanese community and it has a Maronite Catholic Church, St. Elias. Maronite is the rite of Catholicism in Lebanon. Paul and his brother started a Lebanese Food & Cultural Festival at the church and April 2005 was the 7th annual festival. Everyone helps out and the kids dance traditional Lebanese dances. Food is another very important part of our culture. This set of photographs start with Paul and Theresa’s youngest son Daniel’s birthday, which was the weekend before the festival, then the next weekend at the festival. Paul and Elizabeth and their children were there for both weekends, and my Aunt Alice, my cousin John and Melanie, who is now John’s wife, were at the festival.
Next are photographs from August 2005. I was in Birmingham right before and during Hurricane Katrina. At the time, my Aunt Alice and cousin John both owned homes in Metairie which is right next to New Orleans, and they evacuated to Theresa and Paul’s home in Birmingham. After the hurricane, my Aunt Alice moved to Birmingham and John moved to Mobile, where he and Melanie married. They now have a son, John, Jr. My Uncle Eli and Aunt Juanita also own a home in Metairie, and my cousin Neetsee owns a condo in Harahan, which is also outside of New Orleans. Luckily, Neetsee’s condo was not damaged, but my Uncle Eli and Aunt Juanita’s home was greatly damaged and they spent over a year rebuilding. They stayed with Neetsee for several months until they received a trailer from FEMA. Their other daughter Jenni, who lives in Pennsylvania, spent seven weeks in the fall of 2005 helping with the rebuilding. My Uncle Eli and Aunt Juanita are now back in their home.
The following photographs were taken in Northern Virginia where my immediate family lives- my parents, my sister Erica, her husband Jason, their daughter Amelia and their son Graham. My Uncle Bobby is also in this set of photographs. He was visiting from Rhode Island.
All content © Amy Joseph 2015