In the tumultuous aftermath of the Tunisian Revolution that kicked off the so-called Arab Spring, everything seemed possible. 2011 awakened so many hopes and unleashed so many joyful dreams – the euphoria was a contagion, an intoxicant, a transformative moment that outlived the early weeks of protest, and remains among so many even in the dark days. I took this photograph at a journalists’ protest on Bourguiba Avenue in downtown Tunis on Bourguiba Avenue, prompted by a court ruling: a blasphemy verdict rendered against Nessma TV’s Nabil Karoui, in response to the channel’s airing of Persepolis in the run-up to the country’s first democratic elections.
I love so many things about this image: the caption on the protest sign (roughly translated: “the free word gives birth to light / enlightens”); the photo-bombing teenage boys gathered on the theater steps, and – most of all – the light reflected on, and by, this man’s face. I find so much hope here, and in everyone who fights for freedom: of speech, movement, thought, love… for anyone who refuses to concede defeat, for all who cling to joy when this world’s darkness threatens to overwhelm.
No, this piece is not for sale. I created it for a friend, and just finished the final touches. He has not seen it yet, knows “something” is coming in the mail, but doesn’t know that I will never look at this photograph without seeing him as well. Below are the steps of the creation process, from pain-in-the-ass start to painstaking (but always worth it) finish.
May the free word always birth light.