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Volume 20, Number 4July/August 1969

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Children of the Mountain

Photographed by Nicholas Kourides

To a photographer, the temptation to digress is both bane and blessing. It lures him away from his subject but it may also provide a better story.

Last spring, for example, photographer Nicholas Kourides was on assignment in the mountains of Lebanon. He was attempting to capture with his camera the people who, years ago, moved Gibran Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese poet-philosopher, to write some of his most penetrating observations on life and human nature.

To carry out the assignment he began to travel back and forth from Beirut to the village of Becharri, where Gibran once lived. His idea was that in a mountain village as out of the way as Becharri.the people would not have changed greatly in a few decades. Among the narrow streets and houses clinging to a high ledge not far from Lebanon's historic grove of Cedars, he hoped he could find not merely the simple villagers who at once annoyed and inspired Gibran, but also the very mood of the mountains that nurtured the poet's often-brooding thoughts.

As he worked, however, he kept finding himself singling out the children of the village, the handsome, healthy, thoroughly-happy children. He was trying to find the mood of the village—a mood that at times, surely, must have reflected the severity and struggle of life in a harsh and demanding environment—but try as he might, he kept coming up with the children of the mountain, children-with cheeks roughened and reddened by the wind, with teeth as white as the snow on the peaks above, with smiles as bright as the flowers just then pushing their way into the sunlight on the terraced farmland below.

There was, obviously, only one thing to do: forget Gibran and photograph the children. Which, thank heaven, he did. —THE EDITORS

This article appeared on pages 14-19 of the July/August 1969 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for July/August 1969 images.