Success Stories

Charbel Harb

Faith and Love Beat Shame and Limitation

I was born into a humble family and grew up in a modest home. Studying in public schools and the daily struggle for survival made me feel uncomfortable about my social background. I looked at myself with shame and inferiority, but this did not prevent me from dreaming big and aiming high.

Following my high school graduation, I applied for the journalism program at the Lebanese University, but my grades were not good enough. Not wanting the year to go to waste, I enrolled in the Faculty of Political and Administrative Sciences at the Lebanese University. That was a tough year in a field far from anything I love, but it turned out to be the strongest driver towards my passion.

Sometimes, a person comes out of nowhere, believes in your potential, and offers you the means to thrive. My five years at USEK were sponsored unconditionally by a priest who had faith in me and through financial aid earned from the University. Earning my master’s degree with high distinction brought joy to my parents, the priest to whom I owe my education, my family, and my friends.

USEK was much more than a degree because it prepared me for the challenges of my career with its diversity and inclusive teaching and gave me the opportunity to choose between a global or a local agency, which were present during my senior project presentation. The decision was a struggle, but I ended up following my heart once again and picking up a local agency with local and international accounts. After starting as a graphic designer, I expanded my skills and got promoted three years later to senior designer.

The years spent with the agency gave me the chance to work on 360 campaigns from concept to execution. Incidentally, I remember how, on our lunch breaks, my colleagues used to mock how I prepare and eat my food. It has been said that bullying can push you to reconsider things and turn negatives into beneficial and constructive actions. This ignited my passion for food photography.

It took me nine months to find a workshop and learn the basics. I traveled to Tuscany, Italy and that was the best experience I had ever had in my life. Another nine months later, my agency sponsored another workshop for me in Milano, Italy and offered me every Friday as a day off to experiment in this field.

Being aligned with your faith makes you feel that you are living according to God’s plan. Following seven and a half years of devoted service, I resigned from my job, coinciding with the start of the revolution, the economic downturn, and the new COVID pandemic that shut everything down. Added to these difficult external circumstances, I had to deal with many personal issues prompting me to choose back then between recanting my dream or fighting for it. I started sharing pictures of raw vegetables and homemade food on my Instagram page. Then, once again, someone came out of the blue to notice a unique spark in my work. With a mix of courage and fear, I accepted a call to shoot a single picture for one of the most renowned restaurants in Lebanon and that was how I embarked on my thousand-mile journey. Today, “iamnotachef” and I surely never meant to be a food photographer or stylist either. Rather, my passion drove me to where I am today, working with the most famous restaurants and food & beverage companies in Lebanon and the Gulf.

Achieving more than one dream gives you pride in who you are and how you have led your life regardless of your history or background. One can always dream, no matter how challenging the situation is and overwhelming the surrounding darkness may seem. There will always be hope and a tiny window for your dreams to come true.
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