For his series, The Guardians, Antaki traveled across Europe, the Middle East and America, photographing shopkeepers or “Guardians.” These Guardians are keepers of what Antaki terms “urban temples,” unique spaces which, in an age of cookie-cutter, corporate shops, hearken back to an earlier time and mode of urban life. Antaki creates visually arresting portraits of the Guardians in their urban temples that make the viewer connect to the beauty of these often forgotten spaces. Antaki believes that these temples are the heart and soul of every city; they are what give the urban centre its uniqueness in time and place. There is also a duty of memory associated with these spaces. As so many of them are closing, it falls to artists such as Antaki to preserve their memory.
"Through his photographic survey, Antaki addresses the social value and fragile nature of individualized work in an increasingly homogenized, consumerist society. In our highly technological era, where the past is quickly forsaken by a lust for the newest, latest, and greatest, the economic conditions supporting those purveyors of our quirky cultural “heirlooms” are gradually becoming more tenuous. Work places themselves are increasingly democratized, depersonalized and scaled-up for the sake of commercial efficiency. The artist sees this, and he responds. The sitters tell their stories, but also implicit in these images is the close association of each person to the articles they have surrounded themselves with, which prompts us to consider the psychological relationship between each subject and their created environment. Antaki steps deeply into the treasured realms of these individuals. With his acute perception of the present moment and a gentle curiosity he eloquently takes stock, allowing us privileged access to the idiosyncratic wealth of the Guardians." -- Edward Burtynsky
The Guardians has been exhibited in public places in more than a hundred cities across France and North America. It won an Infopresse Lux prize in 2013, and was selected to represent Canada in The Other Hundred, a photo-book curated by the Global Institute For Tomorrow (a not-for-profit global photographic initiative based in Hong Kong). In the fall of 2016, Antaki participated in Toronto’s Nuit Blanche and told the story of eight Guardians in the heart of the Financial District. In the spring of 2018, twenty three Guardians were exhibited for a month and a half at The Alternative in Beirut, Lebanon. The show was curated and produced by Naila Kettaneh-Kunigk, founder of Galerie Tanit in Munich and Beirut. The Guardians is currently traveling through Lebanon in partnership with the French Institute of Lebanon, and was exhibited at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon, from May 2nd to June 2nd 2019.