A photograph featuring a man playing on the piano in a blast-devastated room after the Beirut explosion was featured among The most striking images of 2020 by BBC.
The photograph was taken by Chris McGrath, an Australian multi-award-winning photographer who works with Getty Images.
The photo is particularly impressive – strikingly indeed – in what it reflects of a Lebanese man rising to continue regardless of the catastrophe that surrounds him. It reflects not anger and pain but what seems a peaceful will to prevail amid the destruction and desolation.
The young man in the photo is the Lebanese-Armenian artist and musician Raymond Essayan who, according to the photographer, wasn’t spared by the blast that left him with a concussion and his own home destroyed.
About his photo that he posted on Instagram on August 14th, McGrath wrote the following:
“Artist and musician Raymond Essayan plays a piano he partly sculpted into the shape of a grand piano from the rubble in a destroyed building while shooting a music video for the piece he wrote to be released in dedication to Beirut after the past week’s explosion…”
“Raymond suffered a concussion and his home was destroyed during the port explosion. Although he started to write the musical piece in 2018, he decided to finish it and shoot a music video to release it now after the Beirut port explosion.”
While McGrath’s shot took the scene in what reflects a moment of quiet determination, the pain edging despair of Essayan’s soul during that moment can be heard in the music and song he created.
“The abstract silhouette of the piano, in the ruins of a once-grand room, feels a poignant expression of loss, disorientation, and destruction, with a glimmer of music’s power to help piece together shattered lives,” Essayan captioned his post of the music video.
The BBC article that featured McGrath’s photo of Essayan included a comparison to Rebecca Horn’s artwork of 1991 in how it was perceived by the American poet and historian Kelly Grovier.
Grovier described Rebecca Horn’s piano as following: “A grating cacophony of discordant notes vibrate from the weary instrument as if it were attempting to retune itself to a bedraggled world.”
Chris McGrath is a multi-award-winning photojournalist who has covered major stories around the world, including the Tsunamis of South East Asia and Tohuku, the Battle for Mosul, the Typhoon Haiyan’s aftermath, and the fight against ISIS in Syria, among others.