a picture is what makes the world go round. the lovely urge to save our adventures and create memories is a feeling we all have in common. Yet some of us are more interested in the art than others. we’ve got many photography lovers and enthusiasts, but this time we have to make way for the photography nuts! whether you’re an avid collector or you’re just interested in taking pictures with your fancy new smartphone, we have found the perfect place to double your love of the art.
We were off on our daily stroll when, luckily, we came across this little place in Achrafieh called Middle East Photo Center. Though it wasn’t the name nor the amount of photographs that caught our eye, but the massive collection of vintage cameras in the display of the store. Honestly, we couldn’t help but stand there and stare through the glass windows for a good minute before we summoned up the courage to go in. As soon as we opened the doors, we were hit by a cozy wave of nostalgia that triggered some old memories of rummaging through our grandparents’ photo boxes. The place even smelled like that first moment you remove the lid and see a pile of pictures stuffed into the box. Yes, now you can perfectly remember the hours spent in the attic as if you were looking for treasure. We suddenly stopped for a moment at the sound of music playing in the background, and it was an old rock song that was surely from the 80s and 70s. Even then, we knew how special the place was and the amazing taste the owner had.
This was when we heard a soft “Hello,” coming from a man behind the counter. He introduced himself as Andre Kassab, the owner of Middle East Photo Center. At that point, we just had to go on and on about how beautiful we thought his store was and whether he could tell us a bit about it. “It was during the war that I started working with my father in 1975. We found this place and opened the shop so we wouldn’t have to keep moving back and forth because people were getting kidnapped at that time.” It must have been tough to get by during those troubling times. Yet the Kassab family never managed to give up hope. Each time they were forced to close the store because of the tragedies of the war, they would always come back and reopen. One time, Andre had even closed the store down for almost 6 years before returning.
As we were admiring the items he had on display, Andre had told us that he had been interested in photography ever since he was a 6 year old. This was when he begun his camera collection and it continued to grow from there. “I loved it for as long as I could remember,” He would tell us. The collection didn’t stop at the front display, but continues with more items at the counter. It was quite inspiring, each camera had an entire story behind it and we were dying to know what kind of adventures each one had taken in its time. Sadly, we weren’t able to have those questions answered as we knew it would take us years to go through them all.
The amount of polaroid cameras ِAndre had in his collection was tremendous! It was as if we had traveled back to our childhood years as we snapped a million pictures and waited for them to be printed on the spot. It got us thinking whether the man held something special for them, but sadly none of these cameras were used anymore as Andre said, “They are just there for display and no one really buys them. Only a few people who are collectors or looking to give them as gifts.” He had a point there, with the evolution of technology, people were forgetting the past and looking for the new. “Ever since smartphones came out, people used those instead of real cameras,” he said. It was heartbreaking to think that one day, all these vintage contraptions would be obsolete and no one would even remember what they were. It’s thanks to collectors like Andre Kassab that managed to keep the past alive and the love for traditional photography strong.
If you’d like a closer experience of the history of his camera collection, we highly recommend you check out Middle East Photo Center in Ashrafieh, Elias Sarkis Avenue.
For more information, you can contact them at 01/615437