Posts Tagged ‘Middle East

06
Jan
19

Exhibition: ‘Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image’ at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2018 – 10th February 2019

Curated by Steven Matijcio

 

 

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image' 2018

 

Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari' 2012

 

Akram Zaatari
Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari
2012
Made from 35mm scratched negative from the Hashem el Madani archive
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

“As a holistic specimen without fixed parameters, “An informed object,” Zaatari elaborates, “is an object that is conscious of the material and processes that produced it, conscious of its provenance, its morphology and displacement over time, conscious of its history in the sense that it is able to communicate it. An informed object is already materialised, activated.” His self-declared “displacement” of these objects is thusly not about post-colonial uprooting, but rather a deeper, wider recognition of the apparatus that informs the production, circulation and reception of such images in, and beyond their respective context/s. In this expanded field, negatives, contact sheets, glass plates, double exposures, mistakes, erosion and all that is habitually left on the cutting room floor are re-valued as revelatory anomalies with “something to say”.”

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Akram Zaatari quoted in Steven Matijcio / 2018

 

 

Alternate readings / elisions / a damaged life

This is the first posting of 2019, a new year, a new year of history, memory and life. And what a cracker of an exhibition to post first up!

I have always admired the Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari for the ability of his work to critique the inevitable, referential history of photographs. Anyone who can shine a light on forgotten narratives, histories, contexts and memories, who enlightens the fixed gaze of the camera and the viewer to show the Other, and who empowers the disenfranchised and tells their stories… is excellent in my eyes. For this is what Art Blart has sought to do in the last ten years: build an archive that exposes underrepresented artists and forgotten histories to the world.

Photography, and life, is not all that it seems… and Zaatari implicitly understands the conundrums of the taking, viewing and collecting of photographs in archives. He understands the physical quality of the medium (the presence of the negative, the glass slide, the print and their manipulation by the photographer) as well as the truth of the medium, a kind of truth telling – through history, time, the personal and the collective – that obscures as much as it reveals. As his short biography notes, “Akram Zaatari is an artist whose work is tied to collecting and exploring photographic practices in the making of social codes and aesthetic forms. Regarding the present through a wealth of photographic records from the past… Zaatari investigates notions of desire, pursuit, resistance, memory, surveillance, the shifting nature of political borders and the production and circulation of images in times of war.” Indeed, a rich investigative field which Zaatari makes full use of in his work.

Simply put, the project that Zaatari is undertaking is one of archaeological excavation / re-animation of the many aspects of the cultural geography of Lebanon, his role as auteur in this process combining “image-maker, archivist, curator, filmmaker and critical theorist to examine the photographic record, its making, genealogy and the role photography plays in the production and performance of identity.” (Wall text) “I’m really interested in how the personal and the intimate meet history,” Zaatari says. “What I’m doing is to write history, or [fill in] gaps of history, by using photographic documents.”1

Zaatari “deconstructs the archival impunity of photography to cultivate an expanded architecture of interpretation,” (Wall text) exploring the fold as a catalyst, a narrative, a re-organisation, an enduring obfuscation, and the memory of a material. What a photograph missed and what is present; what an archive catalogues and how, and what it misses, elides or denigrates (the classification system of an archive). As Rebecca Close observes, “The question of what an archive of the image fails to commemorate is particularly relevant in a country marred by decades of civil war and invasion.”2

It is also particularly relevant in a country (and a world) where men are in control. Zaatari interrogates (if I may use that pertinent word) the partitioning of history (between Palestine and Israel), the poses of decorum between male and female, the power of men in marriage, the stigma of homosexuality, male normativity, and “Zaatari’s framing of these photos (particularly as diminutive contact sheets) suggests modern cracks in the visual codification of patriarchal rule…” (Steven Matijcio) The centre cannot hold the weight of these hidden his/stories, as invisible “non-collections” (E. Edwards) in institutions are opened up for critical examination. The damage that accrues through such obfuscation, through such wilful blindness to the stories embedded in photographs is boundless.

What we must remember is that, “photography always lies for the photograph only depicts one version of reality, one version of a truth depending on what the camera is pointed at, what it excludes, who is pointing the camera and for what reasons, the context of the event or person being photographed (which is fluid from moment to moment) and the place and reason for displaying the photograph. In other words all photographs are, by the very nature, transgressive because they have only one visual perspective, only one line of sight – they exclude as much as they document and this exclusion can be seen as a volition (a choice of the photographer) and a violation of a visual ordering of the world (in the sense of the taxonomy of the subject, an upsetting of the normal order or hierarchy of the subject). Of course this line of sight may be interpreted in many ways and photography problematises the notion of a definitive reading of the image due to different contexts and the “possibilities of dislocation in time and space.” As Brian Wallis has observed, “The notion of an autonomous image is a fiction” as the photograph can be displaced from its original context and assimilated into other contexts where they can be exploited to various ends. In a sense this is also a form of autonomy because a photograph can be assimilated into an infinite number of contexts. “This de and re-contextualisation is itself transgressive of any “integrity” the photograph itself may have as a contextualised artefact.” As John Schwartz has insightfully noted, “[Photographs] carry important social consequences and that the facts they transmit in visual form must be understood in social space and real time,” “facts” that are constructions of reality that are interpreted differently by each viewer in each context of viewing.”3

I have no problem with the ethics and politics of the use of photo archives by contemporary artists and the appropriation of archival images as a form of “ironic archivization” to open up new critical insights into culture, and the culture of making, reading and archiving photographs. Zaatari appropriates these images for his own concerns to shine a light on what I call “the space between.” His interdisciplinary practice mines the history of the image while simultaneously expanding its legacy and life. As he observes of his profound and sensitive work, “Every photograph hides parts to reveal others… What a photograph missed and what was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.” With this powerhouse of an artist, these histories will not remain hidden for long.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Venema, Vibeke . “Zaatari and Madani: Guns, flared trousers and same-sex kisses,” on the BBC News Magazine website 17 February 2014 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108
  2. Close, Rebecca. Akram Zaatari [online]. ArtAsiaPacific, No. 104, Jul/Aug 2017: 108. ISSN: 1039-3625 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108
  3. Bunyan, Marcus. “Transgressive Topographies, Subversive Photographies, Cultural Policies,” on Art Blart, October 2013 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108

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Many thankx to Akram Zaatari and the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Acclaimed Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari combines the roles of image-maker, archivist, curator, filmmaker and critical theorist to explore the role photography plays in both instituting and fabricating identity. He is also co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (AIF), an organisation established in Beirut to preserve, study and exhibit photographs from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora from the 19th century to today. Within this endeavour Zaatari discovered the photographs of Hashem El Madani (1928-2017), who recorded the lives of everyday individuals inside and outside his humble studio in the late 1940s and 50s. Zaatari recontextualises this work, along with other archival photos and documents, in an interdisciplinary practice that mines the history of the image while simultaneously expanding its legacy and life. His work is both for and against photography, and the complex histories it cobbles.

For this exhibition he positions the seemingly simple fold as a narrative form, a reorganisation, an enduring obfuscation and the memory of material. In his words, “a photograph captures space and folds it into a flat image, turning parts of a scene against others, covering them entirely. Every photograph hides parts to reveal others… What a photograph missed and what was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.” The work on display will attempt to uncover and imagine these stories, undertaking a provocative archaeology that peers into the fissures, scratches, erosion and that which archives previously shed.

Presented in partnership with FotoFocus Biennial 2018. Text from the Contemporary Arts Center website

 

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portrait of an anonymous woman' 2012

 

Akram Zaatari
Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portrait of an anonymous woman
2012
Made from 35mm scratched negative from the Hashem el Madani archive
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend' 2012

 

Akram Zaatari
Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend
2012
Made from 35mm scratched negatives from the Hashem el Madani archive
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Hands at Rest' (video still) 2017

Akram Zaatari. 'Hands at Rest' (video still) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Hands at Rest (video stills)
2017
SD Video / Running time: 7:30
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

This film is a meditative study of a  selection of studio photographs culled from Lebanese photographer Hashem el Madani’s archives. In response to Madani’s maxim that “posing one’s hands on a flat surface such as a table, or a shoulder helps to straighten one’s shoulders,” Zaatari looks closely from one hand to the next, creating a portrait of Lebanese society that implicitly questions the politics embedded in poses of propriety and decorum. Fingers fitted with rings and bodies displaying the comfort and composure of a certain class are juxtaposed with others indicative of manual labor and untrained modelling. The slow, but precise inventory of the video, devoted to the most tactile limb in one’s body, also elicits the ever-present sensuality which circulates throughout Madani’s photographs. (Wall text)

 

Akram Zaatari. Najm (left) and Asmar (right) 1950-1959, Lebanon, Saida. Hashem el Madani From Akram Zaatari's 'Objects of Study/The archive of Studio Shehrazade/Hashem el Madani/Studio Practices' 2014

 

Akram Zaatari
Najm (left) and Asmar (right) 1950-1959, Lebanon, Saida. Hashem el Madani
From Akram Zaatari’s Objects of Study/The archive of Studio Shehrazade/Hashem el Madani/Studio Practices
2014
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
© A. Zaatari/Arab Image Foundation
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Zaatari says that was normal in the 1950s. “If you had your picture taken you would seize the opportunity to create something different of yourself,” he says. “They wanted to look at themselves as if they were looking at an actor in a film.” It was fun.

Movies were a great source of inspiration for Madani’s sitters. This included acting out a kiss – but only men kissing men and women kissing women. “In a conservative society such as Saida, people were willing to play the kiss between two people of the same sex, but very rarely between a man and a woman,” Madani told Zaatari. He remembers that happening only once.

“If you look at it today you think – is it gay culture? But in fact it is not,” says Zaatari. Social restrictions were different then. “If you wanted to kiss it had to be a same-sex kiss to be accepted.”

Men showed off their photos, but for women a picture was considered intimate and would only be shared with a trusted few. Madani had purposely found a studio space on the first floor, so that women could visit discreetly – seen entering at street level, their destination would not be obvious. Once inside, they could relax – but it did not always end well.

Extract from Vibeke Venema. “Zaatari and Madani: Guns, flared trousers and same-sex kisses,” on the BBC News Magazine website 17 February 2014 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative
2011
C-print
145 x 220cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing From Left To Right: Hassan El Aakkad, Munir El Dada And Mahmoud El Dimassy In Saida, 1948' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing From Left To Right: Hassan El Aakkad, Munir El Dada And Mahmoud El Dimassy In Saida, 1948
2011
C-print
145 x 220cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

 

American Psychological Association links ‘masculinity ideology’ to homophobia, misogyny

For the first time in its 127-year history, the American Psychological Association has issued guidelines to help psychologists specifically address the issues of men and boys – and the 36-page document features a warning.

“Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behaviour, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health,” the report warns.

The new “Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” defines “masculinity ideology” as “a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” The report also links this ideology to homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment.

The new guidelines, highlighted in this month’s issue of Monitor on Psychology, which is published by the APA, linked this ideology to a series of stark statistics: Men commit approximately 90 percent of all homicides in the U.S., they are far more likely than women to be arrested and charged with intimate partner violence in the U.S., and they are four times more likely than women to die of suicide worldwide. …

The report addresses the “power” and “privilege” that males have when compared to their female counterparts, but it notes that this privilege can be a psychological double-edged sword.

“Men who benefit from their social power are also confined by system-level policies and practices as well as individual-level psychological resources necessary to maintain male privilege,” the guidelines state. “Thus, male privilege often comes with a cost in the form of adherence to sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men’s ability to function adaptively.”

Extract from Tim Fitzsimons. “American Psychological Association links ‘masculinity ideology’ to homophobia, misogyny,” on the NBC News website [Online] Cited 10/01/2019

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing Hassan El Aakkad In Saida, 1948' 2007

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing Hassan El Aakkad In Saida, 1948
2007
C-print
220 x 145cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative
2011
C-print
Ed 5 + 2AP
220 x 145cm
© Akram Zaatari

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative
2011
C-print
220 x 145cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

 

The Fold

The fold is the pleat that results from turning or bending part of material against another such as in textile, paper or even earth strata. The fold is the trace that such an action leaves on material, the crease that marks the location of turning and pressing.

Inherent in the action of folding, is that material is turned or moved in three dimensions hence engages with space. Folding is the basic and simplest step in creating form or enclosure. It confines space within folds. It covers parts with other parts. Folding is editing. It is a construction that does not look like its original form.

Unfolding is undoing, deconstructing, turning material back to its initial form. The creases in an unfolded material inscribe its history and in a way save it from amnesia. History inscribes itself on material in creases and in other forms. When unfolded, material testifies that history has already found its way to it, through the fold.

The fold is the memory of material.

When the fold is intentional, it aims to reorganise material to reduce its volume, to create form, or confine space. When accidental or natural such as in geology, or due to ageing organic matter, the fold is a permanent deformation of matter the form of which remains little predictable.

When intentional, the fold is a creative action, like folding a paper sheet into a paper airplane or an origami, like folding several sheets into a book, or a sheet of cardboard into a box or even folding clothes to reduce their volume and store them on a shelf or in a box of specific dimensions.

The fold is a narrative form.

In a way every photograph is an exposure of a field of vision, of something somewhere. Like folding confines space, a photograph captures space and folds into a flat image, turning parts of a scene against others covering them entirely. Every photograph hides parts to reveal others. Every photograph reproduces in small what’s much larger in life, or brings close an image of somewhere far and out of sight. The impact of a fold in a photographed space is permanent, in the sense that hidden parts in a picture are irretrievable. What a photograph missed and that was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.

The fold in a photograph is a detail through which a narrative different from that narrated by the photograph unfolds. It is an element through which the initial construction of a photograph, its making, is undone. It is an element that bears the history of a photograph, its memory.

The fold in time is the representation of time shortened, like in literature, in illustration or typically in film. The fold in time is the ellipsis. The fold within a narrative is the jump-cut or the jump in time. The fold acknowledges the existence of hidden narratives covered by others. In a film, the cut is the fold.

Akram Zaatari

 

General installation views

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

 

Installation views, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Left
Akram Zaatari
[Unlabelled]
Cairo, Egypt 1940s
Inkjet print of gelatin silver negative on cellulose acetate film
Photographer: Alban
Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation

 

A negative for photography is equivalent to an engraved zinc plate for traditional print-making. Not only does it allow for the reproduction of the image or print but it itself carrier traces of the tricks the photographer has used while making a picture. As such, photographers did not want their negatives to be displayed because they often carried details the studio might not want to share with the public. The portrait of a baby was made by the Cairo based photographer Alban in the 1940s. Access to the negative tells us that the baby was held by his mother and that she was later withdrawn from the picture (Wall text)

 

Right
Akram Zaatari
[Unlabelled]
Tripoli, Lebanon 1980s
Inkjet print of gelatin silver negative on cellulose acetate film
Photographer: Joseph Avedissian
Collection: Joseph Avedissian
Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation

 

At at time when going to a photography studio was the only way for people to be photographed for ID or other official purposes, these spaces were shared by a wide spectrum of society. During the Lebanese civil war, they were sometimes employed by opposing militias and certainly by civilians as well. Joseph Avedissian set up his first studio in the late 1950s in al Tell in Tripoli, North Lebanon. Like most inner cities during the civil war in Lebanon, al Tell was the playground of numerous militias ranging from the different Palestinian factions and the Syrian army extending to the Al Tawheed Islamic group in the 1980s. Zaatari visited Avedissian’s with the photographer Randa Saath in 2002. Thousands of negative sheets covered the floor, from where he picked up this sheet that represents one member of the local militia posing with his machine gun. Because of poor preservation, however, a patch of emulsion coming from another exposed negative was accidentally bound to it depicting a woman. The result is an uneasy co-habitation in the shared frame. (Wall text)

 

The End of Love

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view detail)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari

The End of Love (installation view detail)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view detail)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Every photograph hides parts to reveal others…

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Akram Zaatari

 

 

Desire for the archive as an unassailable repository of documents, testimony and truth seems to escalate despite, or perhaps because of, the more imminent reality that there is no singular history on which all peoples can agree. And while the “post-truth” era feels pandemic in North America, in other parts of the world this is an all too familiar paradigm where the manipulation of the past is a customary practice to administer the present, and influence the future. This is especially true of Lebanon, where fifteen years of malignant civil war from 1975-1990 has produced a knotty, contested history riddled with sectarian animosities, institutionalised amnesia, and ubiquitous uncertainty. And yet when nothing is solid, codified or certain, everything becomes possible. Across the Middle East where formal archives remain partial and at risk, an increasing number of artists employ the fragments as fodder for new forms of historical preservation and production. Akram Zaatari (b. 1966 Sidon, Lebanon) is a pioneer within this amorphous terrain, marrying personal experiences of the war, an abiding interest in the vernacular performance of identity via photo and film and a quasi-archaeological treatment of lens-based documents as artefacts. Beyond his individual practice, one of Zaatari’s greatest, most enduring contributions in this field may be the Arab Image Foundation (AIF) – an archival institution he co-founded with photographers Fouad Elkoury and Samer Mahdad in 1997 to self-declaredly “preserve, study and exhibit photographs from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora from the 19th century to today.” And while the AIF has successfully amassed over 600,000 images from multiple countries and eras, Zaatari adamantly refutes the onset of institutionalisation – shunning the paralysing conservation practices of museums and libraries to double down on a more radical, generative employment of these materials. In his hands, this archive moves beyond a delicate commodity to circulate as a mutable constellation that partakes in an expanded field of histories with cumulative socio-cultural cargo. As such, the archive can be seen as both Zaatari’s medium and subject, and the AIF as both his fuel and foil – collecting and re-presenting photos as “a form,” in his words, “of creative un-making and re-writing that is no less important than the act of taking images.” Ensuing questions of authorship and appropriation yield to more multi-faceted strategies of displacement, where the re-framing of photos and films as living, changing vessels unfurls invigorating new layers and folds to mine and forage.

He does so, not as an iconoclast seeking to condemn archives as cogs in the machine of hegemony, but rather as a revitalising gesture that replaces rhetorical manipulations with emancipated re-assignment. For Zaatari, this frisson happens most intriguingly in the seemingly ordinary and banal, in the snapshots and mistakes archives historically diminish, where he argues, “It is a misconception that photographs testify to the course of history. It is history that inhabits photographs.” As such, Zaatari regularly subverts the canonical treatment of photos as evidentiary relics hidden away in cold storage to slow their inherent/inevitable chemical entropy. He instead treats images as susceptible material objects, and one could argue, as surrogates for the subjects and structures they depict. Much like the wrinkles, scars and repressions that the human body + mind collects, Zaatari reads the folds endemic to photography as a palimpsest of information and suggestion. Whether it be a purposeful edit or crop, an aesthetic gesture to redirect our viewing, or the natural degradation of materials over time, he argues that “The fold in a photograph is a detail through which a narrative different from that narrated by the photograph unfolds.” As fertile superstructures that expand the interpretive constitution of said photos, such folds are less obfuscations than nascent fonts for alternative narratives to percolate. “In these folds lies a history…” according to Zaatari, “many histories.” In this inclusive arena, the micro and macro flow into one another as citizen and state intermingle, and one discovers pockets of collective history in the pictures we have of ourselves and one another. These photos and their attendant folds do not float unattached in clouds, but instead coalesce as archives of their making, and lenses to look backward and forward.

In his position that “the traces that transactions leave on a photographic object become part of it,” Zaatari argues that the physical manufacture and decay of a photograph (or film) is as much a contribution to history as that which it depicts. He calls the ensuing composites “informed objects,” which, while partial or possibly broken, highlight the greater whole “like an exploded view of a machine,” or “a model of the human body used in anatomy class.” As a holistic specimen without fixed parameters, “An informed object,” Zaatari elaborates, “is an object that is conscious of the material and processes that produced it, conscious of its provenance, its morphology and displacement over time, conscious of its history in the sense that it is able to communicate it. An informed object is already materialised, activated.” His self-declared “displacement” of these objects is thusly not about post-colonial uprooting, but rather a deeper, wider recognition of the apparatus that informs the production, circulation and reception of such images in, and beyond their respective context/s. In this expanded field, negatives, contact sheets, glass plates, double exposures, mistakes, erosion and all that is habitually left on the cutting room floor are re-valued as revelatory anomalies with “something to say.” Zaatari’s poignant 2017 series A Photographer’s Shadow is a case in point, presenting a number of historical photos where the cameraman’s shadow has infiltrated the composition, which was historically reason to throw the picture away. In Zaatari’s revised appraisal, however, such discards are instead accentuated as elucidating nexus points where author and subject meet within the frame. A diptych of found photos Zaatari premieres in the CAC exhibition thickens this premise even further, displaying a malfunction in the camera of Hashem el Madani (1928-2017) that led to an in-frame doubling of men (presumably father and son) standing upon the rocks of a swelling shoreline. Evoking past hallmarks of romantic painting, a multiplicity gathers with equal muster across this pairing as the images coagulate with the residue and implication of generational, production and art historical lineage. The cresting physicality of this informed object is pushed even further in the 2017 work Against Photography, which removes the image from the equation to instead detail the natural patterns of environmental decay upon a series of 12 photo plates. By extracting the traditional focal point of the photographic process, Zaatari instead surveys iterations of deterioration that take on an uncanny beauty in multiple media – turning the archival chimera of folds and fracture into a verdant topography of patterns, avenues, and stories untold.

The continued consideration of the photograph as a physical entity with corresponding history, memory and lifespan connects to Zaatari’s ongoing exploration of the human body as it is performed for, and by the camera. As an index of experience and identity, the body and its photographic proxy find a surrogate-like relationship in the images he provocatively re-frames – where intimate narratives are gleaned from voluminous collections and otherwise numbing aggregates. And while we are only sometimes privy to the background and/or the names of those photographed, Zaatari is a long-standing student of the ways in which gender, sexuality and taboo are concurrently codified and obscured by indigenous photographic practices. By re-contextualising private photos in a public arena, Zaatari “frequently composes works,” according to Professor Mark Westmoreland, “that force the photographic medium to comment upon social aesthetics that it has been deployed to produce at different historical moments.” A compelling example is found in Zaatari’s 2011 re-presentation of Madani’s timeworn photographs of male bodybuilders performing feats of both physical strength and acrobatic agility in a showcase of masculine prowess. Inferences to homo-eroticism within this display were comparatively forbidden; and, while we must resist the temptation to define historical images through the lens of today, the entropic folds highlighted in Zaatari’s framing of these photos (particularly as diminutive contact sheets) suggests modern cracks in the visual codification of patriarchal rule, male normativity, and the stigma of homosexuality. Like the photographer’s shadow that interrupts the self-contained world of his subjects in Zaatari’s aforementioned work, the humbling eclipse that befalls many an ideology and monument creep over a pantheon of bravado here. The violent exercise of patriarchal custody is on frightening display in Zaatari’s 2012 diptych Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend, where otherwise benign photographs of two young women are marred by a flurry of black scratches. These disturbing scars are the product of a controlling husband who demanded Madani lacerate the negatives of a portrait session initiated by his wife before they were married. Years later, after Mrs. Baqari burned herself to death to escape his control, the widowed husband came back to Madani’s studio asking for enlargements of these photos. Their display decades later under the auspices of this exhibition demonstrates the extraordinary valence of the fold, which in this case manifests a tragic relationship, evokes the history of effigies and iconoclasm, embodies the systematic societal violence against women, and opens up a plethora of readings that could not exist without slashes that span both object and subject.

The social life of the informed objects that Zaatari presents thereby opens a larger sociological discourse which, in the case of Lebanon, speaks to the ways love and sexuality have been regulated – and liberated – via photography and film. He traces the visual trajectory of this contested history largely by way of Madani’s studio photography, which pictured thousands of people over the course of almost half a century in Zaatari’s hometown of Saida. The ensuing photos demonstrate a complex spectrum of desire as people moved across both sides of the state-sanctioned line, performing the love they coveted and that which they concealed. As a site of concurrent fantasy and societal uniformity, what genders, professions, events and relationships were prescribed to “look like” created an orthodoxy of both restrictions and their corresponding transgressions. In The End of Love (2013), Zaatari presents over 100 photos of wedding portraits taken in Madani’s studio that collectively illustrate the codes surrounding this classic trope. Kissing was forbidden for such a photo which, in Lebanon, was taken a week after the ceremony with the bride wearing her wedding dress, supplemented by a bouquet of plastic flowers and white gloves provided by the photographer. And while the ensuing images are stiff, sober and highly formulaic, this End of Love is not a cynical farewell to the romantic aura of marriage, but rather a site where ideals collect in the margins, in aspirations that exceed both the subject and frame. Much like Arthur Danto’s post-historical 1984 essay “The End of Art,” Zaatari’s collection implies the exhaustion of a particular lineage of love and the opening of a chaotic, open-ended eddy where de-regulated desire could be performed. Madani’s studio was the site and catalyst for many of these performances; but, in this exhibition Zaatari pairs The End of Love with the aspiration of his 2010 video Tomorrow Everything will be Alright, in which a proposed reunion of estranged lovers is told in the form of typewritten dialogue. The voices here remain anonymous throughout, much like the many couples in The End of Love, and we gradually learn that these contemporary, same-sex lovers speak in prose drawn from popular cinematic clichés. Their conflicted flirtation culminates in the familiar romantic trope of a sunset at seashore, and more specifically that portrayed in the 1986 film Le Rayon Vert in which a disillusioned woman’s faith in love is restored after she sees a green flash at twilight. And yet, despite the overt homage, the time stamp in the bottom corner of Zaatari’s version implies this is his personal footage. And, that amidst many formulae, clichés and the already said, in the seams between The End of Love and Tomorrow Everything will be Alright, something unique and human can be spoken.

In contrast to the charge that photos are moments plucked out of time – slowly staving off death in the airless preservation of archives – Zaatari re-situates photos entrusted to the AIF in a multiplied field that spans origins and invention. Rather than entrenching images with fixed historical assignments, he performs subtle interventions to uncover and suggest alternate readings that inject life into said objects. As a stirring case in point, Un-Dividing History (2017) merges historical images by Khalil Raad (1854-1957), a Palestinian from Jerusalem, and Yacov Ben Dov (1882-1968), a Zionist-Ukrainian filmmaker and photographer, who dually inhabited Jerusalem from 1907-1948 but “belonged,” in Zaatari’s words, “to completely different universes.” Glass photo plates from each of these men had been acquired into a private collection years later and stored against each other for over a half-century in the same position, slowly and mutually “contaminating” one another with the opposing image. Zaatari’s cyanotypes reveal these beautifully compromised hybrids, depicting “traces of one world inscribed into another,” and symbolically de-partitioning the tragic schisms/folds that have long scarred this population and place. This grid of 8 images is not one of easy, idealistic harmony, but rather a complex, messy, fundamentally human portrait of the way lives intersect and overlap, if only they are allowed. A related moment of extraordinary, stirring empathy is found in the 2013 project Letter to a Refusing Pilot, in which Zaatari realises the rumour of Hagai Tamir, an Israeli fighter pilot, who in 1982, during his country’s invasion of Lebanon, disobeyed the order to drop a bomb on what he knew to be a schoolhouse. The legend, and Zaatari’s ensuing interview with Tamir have taken multiple forms in the translation to art, most notably paper planes that have appeared in both video and physical form, floating across terrain that spans real and virtual, truth and myth. What in theory started as a description, or a document, or a letter, has thereby taken flight via multiple folds – transforming this story into a mutable vessel that lands often, but temporarily – its ultimate destination indeterminate. In this lightness of being and itinerant course, the paper plane embodies Zaatari’s affinity for ephemeral records rather than the weighted gravity of archives. These are images, objects, videos, memories and outtakes that bear creases, evince life, and find renewal in each and every reappraisal.

Steven Matijcio / 2018

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Tomorrow Everything will be Alright' 2010 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow Everything will be Alright
2010
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Tomorrow Everything will be Alright' (video still) 2010

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow Everything will be Alright (video still)
2010
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Tomorrow Everything will be Alright' (video still) 2010

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow Everything will be Alright (video still)
2010
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow everything will be alright
2010

 

 

Akram Zaatari was born in 1966, in Sidon, Lebanon and currently lives in Beirut. Zaatari works in photography, video, and performance to explore issues pertinent to the Lebanese postwar condition, specifically the mediation of territorial conflicts and wars though television and media. Zaatari collects and examines a wide range of documents that testify to the cultural and political conditions of Lebanon’s postwar society. His artistic practice involves the study and investigation of the way these documents straddle, conflate, or confuse notions of history and memory. By analysing and recontextualising found audiotapes, video footage, photographs, journals, personal collections, interviews, and recollections, Zaatari explores the dynamics that govern the state of image-making in situations of war. The strength of Zaatari’s work lies in its ability to capture fractured moments in time, even if these sometimes confuse because of their disconnect from the audience and lack of context. Regardless, the stories hold their own as fascinating narratives, managing to reflect on such universal themes as love and lust, and sweet reminiscence, even amidst turbulent political realities. The indie film was nominated for the teddy award for best short film in 2011.

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 1
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 2
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 3
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot4
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 5
2013

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Letter to a Refusing Pilot' (installation view) 2013

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot (installation view)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

In the summer of 1982, a rumour made the rounds of a small city in South Lebanon, which was under Israeli occupation at the time. It was said that a fighter pilot in the Israeli air force had been ordered to bomb a target on the outskirts of Saida, but knowing the building was a school, he refused to destroy it. Instead of carrying out his commanders’ orders, the pilot veered off course and dropped his bombs in the sea. It was said that he knew the school because he had been a student there, because his family had lived in the city for generations, because he was born into Saida’s Jewish community before it disappeared. As a boy, Akram Zaatari grew up hearing ever more elaborate versions of this story, as his father had been the director of the school for twenty years. Decades later, Zaatari discovered it wasn’t a rumour. The pilot was real. Pulling together all of the different strands of Zaatari’s practice for the first time in a single work, Letter to a Refusing Pilot reflects on the complexities, ambiguities, and consequences of refusal as a decisive and generative act. Taking as its title a nod to Albert Camus’ four-part epistolary essay “Letters to a German Friend,” the work not only extends Zaatari’s interest in excavated narratives and the circulation of images in times of war, it also raises crucial questions about national representation and perpetual crisis by reviving Camus’s plea: “I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.”

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

In an October 2012 interview with anthropologist Mark Westmoreland, Zaatari further probed whether emotions can be preserved with pictures. The difficulty in resolving the matter perhaps motivated the artist’s move into increasingly abstract terrain. The exhibition’s titular work confirms Zaatari’s current reticent position. Against Photography (2017) – 12 aluminium engravings produced from weathered negatives scanned and then put through a 3D scanner that records only surface texture – withdraws from the image entirely, leaving behind only the shine of relief.

Close, Rebecca. Akram Zaatari [online]. ArtAsiaPacific, No. 104, Jul/Aug 2017: 108. ISSN: 1039-3625. [cited 07 Dec 18]

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view detail)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Akram Zaatari

Against Photography (installation view, right)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view detail)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view detail)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

 

Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image with at left, Un-Dividing History 2017
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Un-Dividing History (installation view)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

These cyanotypes merge two bodies of work from a collection which is no longer in the Arab Image Foundation’s custody, and which consisted of glass plates of Khalil Raad, a photographer from Jerusalem, and those of Yacov Ben Dov, a Zionist filmmaker and photographer of Ukrainian descent. Raad and Ben Dov shared the same city, Jerusalem, but belonged to completely different universes. Zaatari conceived this series as a statement against partitioning history. As the glass plates were stored against each other for over 50 years in the same position, each plate was contaminated by the plate it was leaning against. The cyanotypes depict traces of a world impressed onto another and speak of the ineluctable shared history of Palestine and Israel, safeguarded by a passionate collector. (Text from the Sfeir-Semler Gallery website)

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (details) 2017

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (details) 2017

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (details) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Un-Dividing History (details)
2017

 

Akram Zaatari. 'History' (detail) 2018

 

Akram Zaatari
History (detail)
2018
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

History retraces Zaatari’s pursuit of damaged, erased, withdrawn or scrapped off photographic descriptions from the nineties until the present day. The earliest is a self-portrait he made in 1993, and the most recent are part of Photographic Phenomena, 2018 series.

 

 

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04
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East’ at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Exhibition dates: 7th November 2014 – 22nd February 2015

 

These photographs are absolutely glorious!

Bedford had one advantage… what subject matter to work with. The quality is outstanding and the images really bring these treasures alive. The photographs breathe history, but they also breathe the space and light that surround these great monuments. It takes a special skill as an artist to position the camera in just the right place – to tension the image, to let it breathe, to capture the magic of their continued existence – like Charles Marville and Eugène Atget did with the streets of Old Paris. You can see why Francis Bedford was considered one of the finest landscape photographers in Victorian England.

Just look at the space in photographs such as Acropolis and Temple of Jupiter Olympus (31 May 1862, below) and, my favourite, Tombs of the Memlooks at Cairo (25 Mar 1862, below). In the latter, vibrations in the energy of the air and the earth – oscillating at numerous frequencies simultaneously – flow towards the viewer like a sound wave, akin to musical harmonics. These works veritably sing to you. You only have to look at the stereograph by an anonymous photographer of the same subject to realise what a master photographer like Bedford can achieve.

Please look at these photographs at the large size. They are truly stunning.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to The Queen’s Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

“This exhibition follows the journey taken by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in 1862, as he undertook a four month tour around the Middle East. Seen through the photographs of Francis Bedford (1815-94), the first photographer to travel on a royal tour, it explores the cultural and political significance Victorian Britain attached to the region, which was then as complex and contested as it remains today.

The tour took the Prince to Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece where he met rulers, politicians and other notable figures, and travelled in a manner not associated with royalty – by horse and camping out in tents. On the royal party’s return to England, Francis Bedford’s work was displayed in what was described as “the most important photographic exhibition that has hitherto been placed before the public.”

 

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'South West View of the Parthenon [on the Acropolis, Athens, Greece]' 31 May 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
South West View of the Parthenon [on the Acropolis, Athens, Greece]
31 May 1862
Albumen print mounted on card
23.8 x 29.4 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The Prince saw the Parthenon on 30 May, the day before Bedford took this photograph. The group drove there in a carriage at 8am, stopping on the way to see a newly excavated amphitheatre. At the Acropolis, the royal party was joined by the Director of Antiquities who showed them the site. The Prince described the ruins as ‘beautiful’.

The photograph is signed, dated and captioned in the negative, ‘F Bedford Athens 163’, 31 May 1862. See RCIN 2861702 for another print of the same image.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Portions of the Frieze of the Parthenon [Athens, Greece]' 31 May 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Portions of the Frieze of the Parthenon [Athens, Greece]
31 May 1862
Albumen print mounted on card
16.7 x 29.2 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The photograph shows marble blocks from the frieze that ran around all four sides of the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. The frieze was sculpted probably between 438 and 432 BC. In the early 19th century, Thomas Bruce the 7th Earl of Elgin removed about half of the surviving marble blocks from the Parthenon. In 1816 they ended up in the British Museum. The head of the Prince’s party, Robert Bruce, was the younger son of the 7th Earl. Bedford photographed several of the blocks which remained in Athens.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Athens’, 31 May 1862. See RCIN 2861704 for another print of the same image.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'The Caryatid porch of the Erechtheum [Athens, Greece]' 30 May 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
The Caryatid porch of the Erechtheum [Athens, Greece]
30 May 1862
Albumen print mounted on card
24.6 x 29.5 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

After leaving Constantinople, the royal party sailed to Athens. Their first stop upon arrival was to visit the King and Queen of Greece. They then spent two days sightseeing and shopping before rejoining the Royal Yacht. The Erechtheum, set on the Acropolis, is a Greek temple probably built between 421 and 406 BC. The figures of six maidens (the ‘caryatids’) are used to support the porch.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Athens’, 30 May 1862. See RCIN 2861708 for another print of this image.

.
The best-known and most-copied examples are those of the six figures of the Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis at Athens. One of those original six figures, removed by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century, is now in the British Museum in London. The Acropolis Museum holds the other five figures, which are replaced onsite by replicas. The five originals that are in Athens are now being exhibited in the new Acropolis Museum, on a special balcony that allows visitors to view them from all sides. The pedestal for the Caryatid removed to London remains empty. From 2011 to 2015, they were cleaned by a specially constructed laser beam, which removed accumulated soot and grime without harming the marble’s patina. Each Caryatid was cleaned in place, with a television circuit relaying the spectacle live to museum visitors.

Although of the same height and build, and similarly attired and coiffed, the six Caryatids are not the same: their faces, stance, draping, and hair are carved separately; the three on the left stand on their right foot, while the three on the right stand on their left foot. Their bulky, intricately arranged hairstyles serve the crucial purpose of providing static support to their necks, which would otherwise be the thinnest and structurally weakest part. (Wikipedia)

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Acropolis and Temple of Jupiter Olympus [Olympieion, Athens]' 31 May 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Acropolis and Temple of Jupiter Olympus [Olympieion, Athens]
31 May 1862
Albumen print mounted on card
22.0 x 29.4 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The columns in the foreground are part of the remains of the Olympieion, also known as the Temple of Olympic Zeus. This vast temple was dedicated to Zeus, King of the Gods. During the Roman period, it was renowned as the largest temple in Greece. The Acropolis, with the ruins of the Parthenon, can be seen beyond.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Athens’, 31 May 1862. See RCIN 2861698 for another print of this image.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'The Temple of Jupiter from the north west [Baalbek, Lebanon]' 3 May 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
The Temple of Jupiter from the north west [Baalbek, Lebanon]
3 May 1862
Albumen print
23.6 x 29.3 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The royal party spent about a day and a half exploring Baalbek. Most of the time was spent in and around this temple. The Prince wrote in his journal that ‘Mr Bedford took some excellent views of it, which will be a great addition to his collection of photographs.’

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Baalbec’. The number in the Day & Son series is 111.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'The Temple of the Sun and Temple of Jupiter [Baalbek, Lebanon]' 4 May 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
The Temple of the Sun and Temple of Jupiter [Baalbek, Lebanon]
4 May 1862
Albumen print
24.3 x 28.8 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The six standing columns are all that remain of the colonnade that ran around the outside of the Temple of Jupiter. The columns are the largest in the world, at a height of 22.9 metres. A legend about the founding of Baalbek stated that a race of giants constructed the buildings.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Baalbec’. It is number 106 in the Day & Son series.

.
In 334 BC, Alexander The Great conquered Baalbek and the process of Hellenization began. After the death of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies of Egypt invaded Baalbek and they renamed it to Heliopolis, the City of the Sun. They identified Baal with Zeus and the temple was mentioned as a place of oracular divination. During the Greek era, the court was enlarged and a podium was completed to support a classic temple that was never built.

During the Roman era, Baalbek entered its golden age. In 15 BC, Julius Caesar settled in Baalbek and began the construction of a temple complex consisting of three temples: Jupiter (God of sky and thunder), Bacchus (God of agriculture and wine), and Venus (God of love and beauty). On a nearby hill, the Romans built the temple of Mercury. The construction of the temple complex was completed in several phases over three centuries during the Roman Empire. (Extract from Lauren Zak, “Baalbek: The Unsolved Enigma”)

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'The Colossi on the plain of Thebes [Colossi of Memnon]' 17 Mar 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
The Colossi on the plain of Thebes [Colossi of Memnon]
17 Mar 1862
Albumen print, mounted on card
23.7 x 28.6 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The ‘colossi’ are two statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, standing about 18 m (60 ft) high. They are all that remain of a large mortuary temple to Amenhotep, originally serving as guardians to the entrance of the temple. During the Roman period, one of the statues was believed to ‘sing’ at dawn and thus was linked to the legendary figure of Memnon. As the son of Eos the dawn, he was believed to greet her each morning with a sigh.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative. The number in the Day & Son series is 38.

.
The twin statues depict Amenhotep III (fl. 14th century BC) in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards (actually ESE in modern bearings) towards the river. Two shorter figures are carved into the front throne alongside his legs: these are his wife Tiy and mother Mutemwiya. The side panels depict the Nile god Hapy.

The statues are made from blocks of quartzite sandstone which was quarried at el-Gabal el-Ahmar (near modern-day Cairo) and transported 675 km (420 mi) overland to Thebes. (They are too heavy to have been transported upstream on the Nile.) The blocks used by later Roman engineers to reconstruct the northern colossus may have come from Edfu (north of Aswan). Including the stone platforms on which they stand – themselves about 4 m (13 ft) – the colossi reach a towering 18 m (60 ft) in height and weigh an estimated 720 tons each The two figures are about 15 m (50 ft) apart.

Both statues are quite damaged, with the features above the waist virtually unrecognizable. The southern statue is a single piece of stone, but the northern figure has a large extentive crack in the lower half and above the waist consists of 5 tiers of stone. These upper levels consist of a different type of sandstone, and are the result of a later (Roman Empire) reconstruction attempt. It is believed that originally the two statues were identical to each other, although inscriptions and minor art may have varied.

The original function of the Colossi was to stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep’s memorial temple (or mortuary temple): a massive construct built during the pharaoh’s lifetime, where he was worshipped as a god-on-earth both before and after his departure from this world. In its day, this temple complex was the largest and most opulent in Egypt. Covering a total of 35 hectares (86 acres), even later rivals such as Ramesses II’s Ramesseum or Ramesses III’s Medinet Habu were unable to match it in area; even the Temple of Karnak, as it stood in Amenhotep’s time, was smaller. (Wikipedia)

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'The Sphinx, the Great Pyramid and two lesser Pyramids, Ghizeh, Egypt' 4 March 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
The Sphinx, the Great Pyramid and two lesser Pyramids, Ghizeh, Egypt
4 March 1862
Albumen print
23.1 x 29.5 cm
Acquired by King Edward VII when Prince of Wales, 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The Prince and his companions visited the pyramids on camels, which the Prince described as ‘not at all an unpleasant mode of conveyance’. They viewed the Sphinx just before sunset and decided to set up an encampment below the pyramids where they slept for the night in order to climb the Great Pyramid before sunrise the following day.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Pyramids Gizeh’. The number in the Day & Son series is 14.

 

 

“In 1862, the 20-year-old Prince of Wales, eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (and the future King Edward VII), embarked on a tour of the Middle East, accompanied by the photographer Francis Bedford. The resulting images, produced little more than 20 years after the arrival of photography, were the first-ever visual record of a royal tour.

A new exhibition Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East on view at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace this Friday reveals the Prince’s journey through Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece in over 100 spectacular photographs.

The Prince of Wales’s four-month tour, the first official royal tour of the Middle East, had been carefully planned by his parents to occupy him after university and before he was married. Despite Prince Albert’s sudden death just two months earlier in December 1861, Queen Victoria was determined that her son’s visit should go ahead. The Prince travelled in a manner unassociated with royalty at the time, by horse and camping in tents, and met rulers, politicians and other notable figures throughout his journey. He diligently recorded his travels in a private journal, which is on show for the first time.

Photography of a royal tour was a new concept, inspired in part by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s avid interest in the medium. Francis Bedford had already impressed the Queen with his photographs of places associated with Prince Albert’s childhood in Germany, an earlier royal commission. In mid-February 1862, the Photographic News announced that the Prince of Wales was to be accompanied by ‘eight gentlemen only’, including Mr Bedford, on a tour to be undertaken ‘in as private a manner as possible’. The presence of a photographer was “the first public act which illustrates that the heir to England’s throne takes as deep an interest in photography as his late royal father.”

The main purpose of Bedford’s work was to capture historic and sacred landscapes – the young Prince and his companions appear in only three of the 191 surviving photographs. Two of these were taken in Egypt, showing the party in front of the pyramids at Giza and at the Temple of Amun at Karnak, ancient Thebes. In the third, they are having lunch under a fig tree at Capernaum, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The rest of the photographs reflect a growing public demand for romantic images of biblical sites, Egyptian and Greek ruins, and mosques. By the 1860s leisure travel to the Middle East was increasing, stimulated by major archaeological discoveries in the region. The introduction of steamships to Alexandria in 1840 had cut journey times and made the area more accessible for European pilgrims and tourists.

In his lifetime, Francis Bedford was considered one of the greatest British photographers, and on his return from the Middle East many of his photographs of the royal tour were exhibited to the public in a gallery on New Bond Street. Among those now on display for the first time since then are views of the Colossi of Memnon and of the Temple of Horus at Edfu on the west bank of the Nile, in which Bedford’s portable darkroom can be seen in the shadow of the temple. Bedford would have had to take a large amount of equipment with him, including plates, tripods, lenses, chemicals and a darkroom, as well as the camera itself.

A number of antiquities collected by the Prince also are on display for the first time. They include an ancient Egyptian papyrus inscribed with the Amduat, a funerary text which describes the journey of regeneration of Re, the Egyptian sun god, and pottery vessels from an excavation on the island of Rhodes. Also among the objects is a marble fragment from Syria inscribed From the remains of the Christian Quarter at Damascus, May. 1862. Syria, reflecting the devastation caused by the 1860 conflict between the Christian Maronites and the Druze, when the Christian quarter in Damascus was destroyed. A marble bust of Princess Alexandra, who married the Prince the following year, shows her wearing a brooch set with one of the scarabs acquired by the Prince in Egypt, which is also on display.

Sophie Gordon, Royal Collection Trust, curator of the exhibition, said, “Today royal tours are widely photographed, and the pictures are transmitted instantly around the world. Bedford’s photographs were not seen by the public until over a month after the royal party’s return to England, but his presence on the tour was widely reported in the press. The intense interest in his work at the time shows just how innovative and ground-breaking a move it was to invite Bedford to accompany the tour.”

Writer and broadcaster John McCarthy, who has written the foreword to the exhibition publication, said, “The first thing that strikes me about Bedford’s photographs is how good they are. It is only 20 or 30 years after the invention of the medium, and yet the quality of the images is stunning. They manage to bring alive the places the royal party visited, capturing the majesty and romance of what were then largely unvisited sites. One hundred and fifty years on and the Middle East continues to hold our attention – for the wonderful sites, but also for the political landscape in which they are set.”

Pres release from The Queen’s Gallery

 

Joseph Albert (1825-86) (photographer) '[The Prince of Wales with Prince Louis of Hesse, and companions, in Munich, February 1862]' 1862

 

Joseph Albert (1825-86) (photographer)
[The Prince of Wales with Prince Louis of Hesse, and companions, in Munich, February 1862]
1862
Albumen print pasted onto card
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

A group of eight men, with the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) at the centre and Prince Louis of Hesse standing on the right. The Prince of Wales rests his hand against his face, while an open book is held in front of him.

This photograph was taken at the beginning of the Prince of Wales’s tour to the Middle East. He travelled out by train through Europe, meeting various dignitaries en route. Prince Louis of Hesse (who was to marry the prince’s sister, Princess Alice, in July 1862) met the royal party in Darmstadt on 8 February 1862. The Prince of Wales and Prince Louis were photographed with a number of the party who accompanied the Prince from Windsor. The Prince wrote about the occasion in his journal, ‘before luncheon we went through the ordeal of being photography by Mr. Albert and the result was very successful’.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'View through the Great Gateway into the Grand Court of the Temple of Edfou [Temple of Horus, Edfu]' 14 Mar 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
View through the Great Gateway into the Grand Court of the Temple of Edfou [Temple of Horus, Edfu]
14 Mar 1862
Albumen print mounted on card
23.5 x 29.2 cm
Aquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

Edfu is the site of an important temple complex to the falcon-headed god Horus, constructed between 237 and 51 BC. The main gateway, properly known as the First Pylon, is covered in carvings showing the Pharaoh Ptolemy XII defeating his enemies in the presence of the god Horus and goddess Hathor, both of whom appear twice, on either side of the gateway.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Edfou’. The number in the Day & Son series is 23.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'The Great Propylon of the Temple at Edfou [Pylon of the Temple of Horus, Edfu]' 14 Mar 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
The Great Propylon of the Temple at Edfou [Pylon of the Temple of Horus, Edfu]
14 Mar 1862
Albumen print, mounted on card
23.4 x 29.0 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

Edfu is the site of an important temple complex to the falcon-headed god Horus, constructed between 237 and 51 BC. The main gateway, properly known as the First Pylon, is covered in carvings showing the Pharaoh Ptolemy XII defeating his enemies in the presence of the god Horus and goddess Hathor, both of whom appear twice, on either side of the gateway.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Edfou’. The number in the Day & Son series is 22.

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Edfu was one of several temples built during the Ptolemaic period, including Dendera, Esna, Kom Ombo and Philae. Its size reflects the relative prosperity of the time. The present temple, which was begun “on 23 August 237 BC, initially consisted of a pillared hall, two transverse halls, and a barque sanctuary surrounded by chapels.” The building was started during the reign of Ptolemy III and completed in 57 BC under Ptolemy XII. It was built on the site of an earlier, smaller temple also dedicated to Horus, although the previous structure was oriented east-west rather than north-south as in the present site. A ruined pylon lies just to the east of the current temple; inscriptional evidence has been found indicating a building program under the New Kingdom rulers Ramesses I, Seti I and Ramesses II. A naos of Nectanebo II, a relic from an earlier building, is preserved in the inner sanctuary, which stands alone while the temple’s barque sanctuary is surrounded by nine chapels.

The temple of Edfu fell into disuse as a religious monument following Theodosius I’s edict banning non-Christian worship within the Roman Empire in 391. As elsewhere, many of the temple’s carved reliefs were razed by followers of the Christian faith which came to dominate Egypt. The blackened ceiling of the hypostyle hall, visible today, is believed to be the result of arson intended to destroy religious imagery that was then considered pagan.

Over the centuries, the temple became buried to a depth of 12 metres (39 ft) beneath drifting desert sand and layers of river silt deposited by the Nile. Local inhabitants built homes directly over the former temple grounds. Only the upper reaches of the temple pylons were visible by 1798, when the temple was identified by a French expedition. In 1860 Auguste Mariette, a French Egyptologist, began the work of freeing Edfu temple from the sands.

The Temple of Edfu is nearly intact and a very good example of an ancient Egyptian temple. The Temple of Edfu’s archaeological significance and high state of preservation has made it a centre for tourism in Egypt and a frequent stop for the many riverboats that cruise the Nile. In 2005, access to the temple was revamped with the addition of a visitor center and paved carpark. A sophisticated lighting system was added in late 2006 to allow night visits. (Wikipedia)

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Tombs of the Memlooks at Cairo [Mausoleum and Khanqah of Emir Qawsun]' 25 Mar 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Tombs of the Memlooks at Cairo [Mausoleum and Khanqah of Emir Qawsun]
25 Mar 1862
Albumen print, mounted on card
24.1 x 29.0 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

Once the royal party returned to Cairo, Francis Bedford spent some time photographing the sites alone while the Prince undertook a separate programme of events. Bedford visited a number of fine examples of Islamic architecture. Emir Qawsun was one of the most powerful emirs during the 14th century. His tomb and khanqah (a large hall for gatherings for prayer and meditation) were built in 1335-6.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Cairo’. The number in the Day & Son series is 9.

 

Anonymous. 'View of the Tombs of the Memlook Kings, Cairo, Egypt' Nd

 

Anonymous
View of the Tombs of the Memlook Kings, Cairo, Egypt
Nd
7.75 x 4.2 inches
From the collection of Dr Paula Sanders, Rice University

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Mosque of Mehemet Ali [Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo]' 8 March 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Mosque of Mehemet Ali [Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo]
8 March 1862
Albumen print, mounted on card
24.8 x 29.5 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

View of Mosque of Mohammed Ali in Cairo, Egypt. Alabaster building seen across square, with 2 tall minarets centre. Single row of columns supporting round arches lining court, left. The mosque was built in the Ottoman style between 1830 and 1848 for the son of the ruler Muhammad Ali Pasha (Mehmet Ali). The Prince of Wales and his party visited the mosque on 3 March 1862. They climbed to the roof to get a view of the town and country, and were able to see the pyramids in the distance. They also visited Mehmet Ali’s tomb within the mosque (he died in 1849).

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Cairo’. The number in the Day & Son series is 10.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Fountain in the Court of the Mosque of Mehemet Ali [Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo]' 3 Mar 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Fountain in the Court of the Mosque of Mehemet Ali [Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo]
3 Mar 1862
Albumen print, mounted on card
24.8 x 29.6 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The Prince spent a few days in Cairo before travelling down the Nile. The royal party were taken to visit the Mosque of Muhammad Ali (r. 1805-48), who was the founder of the dynasty ruling the country at that time. The Mosque, only completed in 1857, remains today one of the most prominent landmarks in the city.

The photographer, Francis Bedford, wrote in his catalogue of this scene, “This light and elegant edifice has long and justly been celebrated as one of the most beautiful fountains in the mosks of Cairo. As is apparent in the Photograph, it is fast hastening to decay; and it is altogether to be lamented that among the inhabitants of modern Egypt so little provision is made for the repair and preservation of interesting monuments of ancient art.” (Bedford photographic catalogue 1862, p. 4-5).

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Cairo’. The number in the Day & Son series is 11.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Garden of Gethsemane [Jerusalem]' 2 Apr 1862 

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Garden of Gethsemane [Jerusalem]
2 Apr 1862
Albumen print, mounted on card
21.1 x 29.1 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The Garden of Gethsemane has always been identified as an olive grove. Here the carefully tended, centuries-old olive trees are easily identified.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated (incorrectly as 2 March 1862) in the negative, ‘F Bedford Gethsemane’. The number in the Day & Son series is 68.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'The Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane [Jerusalem]' 2 Apr 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
The Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane [Jerusalem]
2 Apr 1862
Albumen print, mounted on card
23.4 x 28.5 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The Mount of Olives rises to the east of Jerusalem. The walled enclosure to the right contains the site identified as the Garden of Gethsemane. After the Last Supper, Jesus went to the garden where he prayed, accompanied by St Peter, St John and St James the Greater. Jesus was subsequently betrayed by Judas in the garden and arrested.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated (incorrectly as 2 March 1862) in the negative, ‘F Bedford Jerusalem’. The number in the Day & Son series is 63.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'West Front of the Mosque of Omar [Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem]' 1 Apr 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
West Front of the Mosque of Omar [Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem]
1 Apr 1862
Albumen print, mounted on card
22.3 x 28.2 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The Islamic shrine was constructed on a site traditionally identified with Solomon’s Temple, which was later replaced with the Second Temple only to be destroyed by the Romans. The Dome of the Rock was constructed between 688 and 691 AD. The ‘rock’ is believed to be the place from where the prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven in his Night Journey. Other traditions identify the rock as the place where Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Jerusalem’. The number in the Day & Son series is 55.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Upper Bethoron [Beit Ur al-Foqa and the Valley of Ajalon]' 31 Mar 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Upper Bethoron [Beit Ur al-Foqa and the Valley of Ajalon]
31 Mar 1862
Albumen print, mounted on card
23.1 x 29.0 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The Royal Yacht reached Jaffa (modern-day Tel Aviv) on 29 March. The following day the royal party set out on horses in the direction of Jerusalem. En route they visited Beit Ur al-Foqa from where they could view the Valley of Ajalon, the site of a famous biblical battle, fought by Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, against the Amorite kings.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Bethoron’. The number in the Day & Son series is 50.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Damascus - from a minaret in the Christian quarter [Syria]' 30 Apr 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Damascus – from a minaret in the Christian quarter [Syria]
30 Apr 1862
Albumen print
23.5 x 28.8 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

View across rooftops of dilapidated buildings in Damascus. Minarets and dome of Great Mosque visible in distance, left. The ruins were a consequence of the conflict during the 1860 massacres.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Damascus’. The number in the Day & Son series is 95.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'The Street called Straight, Damascus' 30 Apr 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
The Street called Straight, Damascus
30 Apr 1862
Albumen print
23.8 x 29.0 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

View up Straight Street – narrow lane running between Christian and Jews’ Quarter in Damascus. Buildings either side stand in ruins.

The ‘Street called Straight’ led out of the Christian quarter. Signs of the 1860 conflict are still apparent in the photograph. The street, however, was known as the place where St Paul (formerly Saul) regained his sight and converted to Christianity, having been blinded by holy light three days earlier while travelling on the road to Damascus. The Christian quarter is to the north-east of the street. This reflects a decision made in 636 by Khalid Ibn al-Walid, the Muslim conqueror of Damascus, to retain the orthodox churches in this area and to continue to provide access for the Christians to these buildings.

The photograph is signed, captioned and dated in the negative, ‘F Bedford Damascus’. The number in the Day & Son series is 97.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Tower of Galata and part of Turkish burial ground [Istanbul, Turkey]' 21 May 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Tower of Galata and part of Turkish burial ground [Istanbul, Turkey]
21 May 1862
Albumen print mounted on card
23.6 x 28.8 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

View of the Galata Tower, in the Galata district of Constantinople [Istanbul]. The tower was built by the Genoese community in 1348 and was known as the ‘Christea Turris’ [Tower of Christ]. Various restoration works have taken place over the years, and the tower now has a conical turret at the top, rather than the two-storey pavilion seen in the photograph. The Prince of Wales makes no mention in his journal of visiting or climbing the tower. It was not far from the arsenal and the Nusretiye Mosque, which he visited on 21 May 1862.

The photograph is signed and captioned in the negative, ‘F Bedford Constantinople’. See RCIN 2861678 for another print of this image.

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The Romanesque style tower was built as Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) in 1348 during an expansion of the Genoese colony in Constantinople. Galata Tower was the tallest building in Istanbul at 219½ feet (66.9 m) when it was built in 1348. It was built to replace the old Tower of Galata, an original Byzantine tower named Megalos Pyrgos (English: Great Tower) which controlled the northern end of the massive sea chain that closed the entrance to the Golden Horn. That tower was on a different site and was largely destroyed in 1203, during the Fourth Crusade of 1202-1204.

The upper section of the tower with the conical cap was slightly modified in several restorations during the Ottoman period when it was used as an observation tower for spotting fires. According to the Seyahatname of Ottoman historian and traveller Evliya Çelebi, in circa 1630-1632, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi flew as an early intercontinental aviator using artificial wings for gliding from this tower over the Bosphorus to the slopes of Üsküdar on the Anatolian side, nearly six kilometres away. Evliyâ Çelebi also tells of Hezarfen’s brother, Lagari Hasan Çelebi, performing the first flight with a rocket in a conical cage filled with gunpowder in 1633.

Starting from 1717 the Ottomans began to use the tower for spotting fires in the city. In 1794, during the reign of Sultan Selim III, the roof of the tower made of lead and wood, and the stairs were severely damaged by a fire. Another fire damaged the building in 1831, upon which a new restoration work took place.

In 1875, during a storm, the conical roof on the top of the building was destroyed. The tower remained without this conical roof for the rest of the Ottoman period. Many years later, during the restoration works between 1965 and 1967, the conical roof was reconstructed. During this final restoration in the 1960s, the wooden interior of the tower was replaced by a concrete structure and it was commercialized and opened to the public. (Wikipedia)

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Rhodes, supposed site of the Colossus' 15 May 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Rhodes, supposed site of the Colossus
15 May 1862
Albumen print mounted on card
22.6 x 29.0 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was said to have straddled the entrance to the harbour into Rhodes Town. The Colossus was a statue of the Titan Helios, standing at about 30 m (107 ft) high. It was constructed to commemorate an unsuccessful siege of the island in 305 BC.

The photograph is signed and captioned in the negative, ‘F Bedford Rhodes’.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) 'Entrance to the Grotto of Antiparos' 16 May 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Entrance to the Grotto of Antiparos
16 May 1862
Albumen print mounted on card
22.5 x 28.6 cm
Acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

The Grotto, or ‘Great Cave’, on the small island of Antiparos, has been a tourist attraction for hundreds of years. The Prince of Wales described his visit, “A ride of 45 minutes brought us to the entrance of a large grotto or cave which is 60 fathoms in depth. We descended it by means of rope and rope ladders, and it was by no means an easy job. … There are some very fine stalactites in the cave.”

The photograph is signed and captioned in the negative, ‘F Bedford Antiparos’. See RCIN 2861673 for another print of this image.

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer) Photographic title page: 'Photographic Pictures made by Mr Francis Bedford during the Tour in the East' 1862

 

Francis Bedford (1815-94) (photographer)
Photographic title page: ‘Photographic Pictures made by Mr Francis Bedford during the Tour in the East’
1862
Albumen print on original mount
25.8 x 21.3 cm
Acquired by HM The Queen, 2006
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

Photographic title page from Francis Bedford’s Middle East views of 1862. Includes a copy of Bedford’s view of the ‘Mosque of Omar from the Governor’s House’ in Jerusalem

 

Joseph Albert (1825-86) (photographer) '[The Prince of Wales and Prince Louis of Hesse, 11 February 1862]' Feb 1862

 

Joseph Albert (1825-86) (photographer)
[The Prince of Wales and Prince Louis of Hesse, 11 February 1862]
Feb 1862
Albumen print pasted on card
Commissioned and acquired by the Prince of Wales while travelling through Europe, 1862
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

 

A carte-de-visite portrait of the Prince of Wales (right) with Prince Louis of Hesse (Grand Duke Ludwig IV). Prince Louis was engaged to marry the Prince’s sister, Princess Alice.

This photograph was taken when the Prince was travelling across Europe in order to meet the royal yacht at Venice, in order to commence his tour of the Middle East. Both princes wear overcoats and hats, and are smoking cigarettes; the Prince of Wales is holding a cane. The Prince later wrote about this occasion in his journal, “Before luncheon we went through the ordeal of being photographed by Mr Albert and the result was very successful” (11 February 1862).

 

 

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24
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life’ at Haus der Kunst, Munich

Exhibition dates: 15th February – 26th May 2013

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NEVER AGAIN!

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Many thankx to Haus der Kunst for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Eli Weinberg. 'Crowd near the Drill Hall on the opening day of the Treason Trial, Johannesburg, 19. December 1956' 1956

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Eli Weinberg
Crowd near the Drill Hall on the opening day of the Treason Trial, Johannesburg, 19. December 1956
1956
Times Media Collection, Museum Africa, Johannesburg

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Gille de Vlieg. 'Coffins at the mass funural held in KwaThema, Gauteng, July 23, 1985' 1985

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Gille de Vlieg
Coffins at the mass funural held in KwaThema, Gauteng, July 23, 1985
1985

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Gille de Vlieg. 'Pauline Moloise (mother of Ben), two women & Winnie Madikizela Mandela mourn at the Memorial Service for Benjamin Moloise, who was hanged earlier that morning. Khotso House, Johannesburg, October 18, 1985' 1985

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Gille de Vlieg
Pauline Moloise (mother of Ben), two women & Winnie Madikizela Mandela mourn at the Memorial Service for Benjamin Moloise, who was hanged earlier that morning. Khotso House, Johannesburg, October 18, 1985
1985

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Jodi Bieber. 'Protest against Chris Hani's assassination' 1993

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Jodi Bieber
Protest against Chris Hani’s assassination
1993
© Goodman Gallery Johannesburg

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“Complex, vivid, evocative, and dramatic, “Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life” represents the most comprehensive exhibition of its kind, attempting to formulate an understanding of apartheid’s legacy in South Africa through visual records. These images responded to the procedures and processes of the apartheid state from its beginning in 1948 to the first non-racial democratic elections that attended its demise in 1994. Featuring more than 600 documentary photographs, artworks, films, newsreel footage, books, magazines, and assorted archival documents, the exhibition will fill more than 2,000 square meters of the East Wing of Haus der Kunst. Starting in the entrance gallery (where two film clips are juxtaposed; one from 1948 showing the victorious Afrikaner National Party’s celebration rally, and another of President F.W. De Klerk in February 1990 announcing Nelson Mandela’s release from prison) the exhibition offers an absorbing exploration of one of the twentieth century’s most contentious historical eras.

The exhibition highlights the different strategies adopted by photographers and artists; from social documentary to reportage, photo essays to artistic appropriation of press and archival material. Through these polysemic images, the exhibition embarks on a tour of how photographers and artists think with pictures, the questions these images pose, and the issues of social justice, resistance, civil rights and the actions of opposition to apartheid raise. In so doing, “The Rise and Fall of Apartheid” brings together many iconic photographs that have rarely been shown before, to propose a fresh historical overview of the photographic and artistic responses to apartheid.

A fundamental argument of the exhibition is that the rise of the Afrikaner National Party to political power and its introduction of apartheid as the legal foundation of governance in 1948 changed the country’s pictorial perception from a “relatively benign colonial space based on racial segregation to a highly contested space in which the majority of the population struggled for equality, democratic representation, and civil rights” (Okwui Enwezor). From the moment apartheid was introduced, photographers in South Africa were immediately aware of how these changes taking place in politics and society accordingly affected photography’s visual language: The medium was transformed from a purely anthropological tool into a social instrument. No one photographed the struggle against apartheid better, more critically, and incisively than South African photographers. For that reason, with the notable exception of a few Western photographers and artists, including Ian Berry, Dan Weiner, Margaret Bourke-White, Hans Haacke, Adrian Piper, and others, the works in the exhibition are overwhelmingly produced by South African photographers.

Resisting the easy dichotomy of victims and oppressors, the photographers’ images present the reading of an evolving dynamic of repression and resistance. Ranging in approach between “engaged” photography of photo essays to the “struggle” photography of social documentary which was aligned with activism, to photojournalistic reportage, the photographers did not only show African citizens as victims, but more importantly as agents of their own emancipation. Included in the exhibition are seminal works by Leon Levson, Eli Weinberg, David Goldblatt and members of “Drum” magazine, such as Peter Magubane, Jürgen Schadeberg, Alf Kumalo, Bob Gosani, G.R. Naidoo, and others in the 1950s. Also represented are the investigative street photography of Ernest Cole and George Hallett in the 1960s, the reportage of Sam Nzima, Noel Watson, and protest images of the Black Consciousness movement, and student marches in the 1970s to those of the Afrapix Collective in the 1980s, as well as reportages by the members of the so-called Bang Bang Club in the 1990s. The exhibition concludes with works by a younger generation of South African photographers, such as Sabelo Mlangeni and Thabiso Sekgale, and the collective Center for Historical Reenactments, whose projects offer subtle reappraisals of the after effects of apartheid still felt today.

These South African photographers represented a clear political belief. They were opponents of the apartheid regime, and they employed photography as an instrument to overcome it. The independent photo agency Afrapix, founded in 1982 by Omar Badsha and Paul Weinberg, saw itself as a group of “cultural workers”. They believed political convictions came first, and that photography, like writing or acting, was part of the anti-apartheid movement. This attitude was supported by photographers such as Peter McKenzie, who – at a cultural conference organized by the ANC (African National Congress) in Gabarone, Botswana in 1982 – argued that the work of cultural producers is necessarily part of the struggle against apartheid. McKenzie’s argument stood in sharp contrast to that of David Goldblatt, who had the opinion that photographers should report on events with as much inner distance as they can muster.

On the other end of the spectrum, the so-called “struggle” or “frontline photography” is characterized by immediacy, giving the impression of being in the middle of the action. “If you want a picture, you get that picture, under all circumstances” was the leitmotif of one of the leading figures, Peter Magubane.

The photographs’ subjects are different historical events. These include the “Treason Trial” of 1956-61, which ended with the acquittal of 156 anti-apartheid activists, including Nelson Mandela; the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, in which police shot 69 demonstrators dead; Mandela’s release in 1990 after 27 years in prison; and the civil war between opposing political factions during the 1994 election. Yet this exhibition is not a history of apartheid itself. Instead it aims to critically interrogate the normative symbols and signs of the photographic and visual responses to apartheid. For example, ritualized gestures were also part of the apartheid imagery. The “thumbs up” as a sign of solidarity among activists belonged to the movement’s nonviolent start when civil disobedience and strikes were still regarded as effective agents. After the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, the resistance became militarized. The cherished “thumbs up” was transformed into the upraised fist, the general symbol of black power. Since the burial of the Sharpeville massacre’s victims, black South Africans expressed their sense of community and identity at funerals. Their public mourning thus became a ritualized form of mass mobilization and defiance.

From the ordinary and mundane to the bureaucratic and institutional, the corrosive effects of the apartheid system on everyday life are explored in the multiplicity of public signage that drew demarcating lines of segregation between whites, Africans, and non-Europeans. For example, Ernest Cole engaged in a sustained study of apartheid signage at train stations, banks, buses, taxi ranks, and throughout the streets of cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria in the early to mid-1960s. Another exemplary image is a photo from 1956 taken by Peter Magubane. It draws attention to the fact that racial segregation restricted movement in both private and public space. The image shows a young white girl sitting on a bench with the inscription “Europeans only” as her black nanny strokes her neck, but must do so from the back bench.

However, the everyday was not limited to the humiliations of policed segregation. “Drum” magazine, one of the most important media outlets for African social life, combined the gritty realism of reportage and the fantasy of normality in the self-constructions of non-European dandies, beauty queens, and the exuberance of township life. Its pages offered images of entertainment, representations of leisure, cultural events, and celebrity portraits. The magazine encompassed a full range of motifs, from relentless documentary photography to fashion shoots, dance revues, and concerts. Through the magazine, photographs found an audience that was politically sensitive and attentive; it also gave South African photographers the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues from other African countries, India, and Europe for the first time.

In 1990, the interest of the international press was focused on Mandela’s imminent release. Photographs from South Africa had finally prepared the ground for the participation of world opinion in shaping the country’s future. In this context, the exhibition also asks whether photography can help inform the political face of the world.”

Press release from the Haus der Kunst website

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Jurgen Schadeberg. 'The 29 ANC Women’s League women are being arrested by the police for demonstrating against the permit laws, which prohibited them from entering townships without a permit, 26th August 1952' 1952

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Jurgen Schadeberg
The 29 ANC Women’s League women are being arrested by the police for demonstrating against the permit laws, which prohibited them from entering townships without a permit, 26th August 1952
1952
Courtesy the artist

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Jurgen Schadeberg. '20 defiance campaign Leaders appear in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court on a charge of contravening the Suppression of Communism Act, August 26, 1952' 1952

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Jurgen Schadeberg
20 defiance campaign Leaders appear in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court on a charge of contravening the Suppression of Communism Act, August 26, 1952
1952
Courtesy the artist

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Ranjith Kally. 'Chief Albert Luthuli, former President General of the African National Congress, Rector of Glasgow University and 1960 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, gagged by the government from having any of his words published in his country, confined to small area around his home near Stanger in Natal, April 1964' 1964

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Ranjith Kally
Chief Albert Luthuli, former President General of the African National Congress, Rector of Glasgow University and 1960 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, gagged by the government from having any of his words published in his country, confined to small area around his home near Stanger in Natal, April 1964
1964
© Bailey’s Archives

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Jurgen Schadeberg. 'Nelson Mandela, Treason Trial' 1958

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Jurgen Schadeberg
Nelson Mandela, Treason Trial
1958
Courtesy the artist

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Eli Weinberg. 'Nelson Mandela portrait wearing traditional beads and a bed spread. Hiding out from the police during his period as the "black pimpernel," 1961' 1961

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Eli Weinberg
Nelson Mandela portrait wearing traditional beads and a bed spread. Hiding out from the police during his period as the “black pimpernel,” 1961
1961
Courtesy of IDAFSA

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Greame Williams. 'Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela as he is released from the Victor Vester Prison' 1990

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Greame Williams
Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela as he is released from the Victor Vester Prison
1990
Courtesy the artist
© Greame Williams

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Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstraße 1
80538 Munich
Germany
T: +49 89 21127 113

Opening hours:
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Thursday 10 am - 10 pm

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02
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Light from the Middle East: New Photography’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 13th November 2012 – 7th April 2013

From the Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

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A massive posting on a fascinating subject. I know little about this area of (sometimes postcolonial) photography. The images are really strong, powerful and laden with symbology – the signifier (photograph) and signified (meaning of the photograph) evidencing signs that interrogate “the creative responses to the social challenges and political upheavals that have shaped the Middle East over the past 20 years.” The three concepts Recording, Reframing and Resisting are critical to understanding the practices of these artists as they investigate the historicity, sacrifice, repression and persecution of their peoples.

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Many thankx to the Victoria and Albert Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Newsha Tavakolian. From the series 'Mothers of Martyrs' 2006

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Newsha Tavakolian
Born Tehran, Iran, 1981. Lives Tehran
From the series Mothers of Martyrs
2006
Digital C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

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Nermine_Hammam_From_the_series_Upekkha_2011_WEB

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Nermine Hammam
Born Cairo, Egypt, 1967. Lives Cairo
The Break
2011
from the series Upekkha
Archival inkjet print
The Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

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Light from the Middle East: New Photography is the first major museum exhibition of contemporary photography from and about the Middle East. It features more than 90 works by some of the most exciting artists from the region, spanning North Africa to Central Asia. The exhibition is part of a collaboration between the British Museum and the V&A, which has over the last three years seen the development of a major collection of Middle Eastern photography thanks to substantial funding from the Art Fund. The collection of 95 works has been built in response to a surge of interest in the visual arts in the region and is beginning to remedy the under-representation of Middle Eastern photography in UK collections. Light from the Middle East includes 87 of the works from this shared collection.

The photographs on display show the creative responses to the social challenges and political upheavals that have shaped the Middle East over the past 20 years and include work made following the recent revolution in Egypt. The photographs present multiple viewpoints of a region where collisions between personal, social, religious and political life can be emotive and complex. The exhibition showcases the work of 30 artists from 13 different countries including internationally established practitioners such as Abbas (Iran), Youssef Nabil (Egypt) and Walid Raad (Lebanon) as well as emerging talents such as Taysir Batniji (Palestine), Shadi Ghadirian (Iran) and Abdulnasser Gharem (Saudi Arabia). The work covers a wide range of techniques and subject matter, from photojournalism to staged and digitally manipulated imagery.

Marta Weiss, curator of the exhibition said: “In the past few years contemporary photographic practice from and about the Middle East has been some of the most exciting, innovative and varied art anywhere in the world. The exhibition celebrates the creative and sophisticated ways that contemporary artists use photography to respond to the complexities of the Middle East.”

The exhibition is structured around three key themes; Recording, Reframing and Resisting. Each explores a range of strategies Middle Eastern artists have used to engage with the medium of photography.

The opening section shows how photography can be used as a powerful tool for recording people, places and events. From Newsha Tavakolian’s series Mothers of Martyrs (2006) featuring elderly mothers holding framed pictures of their sons who were killed in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s, to Jananne Al-Ani’s disorienting aerial views of the desert in her video Shadow Sites II (2011), this section demonstrates various ways in which the camera has been used to document and record. The work in the second section explores an interest in reframing and reworking preexisting photographs. Shadi Ghadirian’s series Qajar (1998) recreates 19th-century Iranian studio portraits, updating them with contemporary props such as sunglasses and Pepsi cans, while Taysir Batniji applies the modernist style of the German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher to his series of photographs of Israeli watchtowers in the West Bank.

The final section looks at practitioners who resist the authority of the photograph, questioning the medium’s ability to record factual information. Whether manipulating or digitally altering images, or physically attacking the print surface by scratching and burning, these artists demonstrate a desire to undermine the legibility and reliability of the photograph. In the intimate and poetic series Le Retour Imaginaire (2002), Afghan artist Atiq Rahimi rejects new technology, opting instead to photograph war-ravished Kabul with a primitive box camera. The recent series Uphekka by Nermine Hammam reworks photographs of Egyptian soldiers taken during the protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo in 2011 and transports them to multicoloured fantasy settings that are far removed from the struggles of the Arab Spring.”

Press release from the V&A website

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Recording

Photography is a seemingly accurate means of recording people, places and events. A photograph can serve a commemorative purpose or document a historic moment. It can reveal something not otherwise visible, such as a place or event the viewer would not have access to, or a particular vantage point available only to the photographer. It can also create a lasting image of a fleeting performance, or of a scene staged only for the camera.

But how reliable is a photograph? Despite the apparent authority of photographic images, they can trick or disorient. They can be ambiguous and difficult to decipher. Their meaning can shift according to context, cropping or captioning. What are the limitations of photography?

The photographers in this section use a range of approaches to exploit and explore the camera’s capacity to record.

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Abbas. 'France Rioters burn a portrait of the Shah as a sign of protest against his regime. Tehran, December 1978' 1978-9

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Abbas
Born Kash, Iran, 1944. Lives Paris, France
Rioters burn a portrait of the Shah as a sign of protest against his regime. Tehran, December 1978
1978-9
From the series Iran Diary
Gelatin silver print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
Abbas@Magnum Photos, courtesy Magnum Gallery

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Issa Touma. From the series 'Sufis: The day of al-Ziyara' 1995-2005

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Issa Touma
Born Safita, Syria, 1962. Lives Aleppo, Syria
From the series Sufis: The day of al-Ziyara
1995-2005
Gelatin silver print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Issa Touma is a prominent figure in the Syrian art scene. Self-taught, he began his career as a photographer in the early 1990s. In 1996 he founded Le Pont Organisation and Gallery, an independent art organisation to promote freedom of expression and stimulate the local art scene through international events.

His series on the day of al-Ziyara documents an annual procession of Sufi pilgrims in northern Syria. Sufism is a mystical path within Islam. Touma photographed the event over the course of ten years, gradually gaining the trust of his subjects. The resulting images convey his sense of immersion in the festival and capture the fervour of the worshippers.

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Waheeda Malullah. From the series 'Light' 2006

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Waheeda Malullah
Born Bahrain, 1978. Lives Bahrain
From the series Light
2006
Inkjet print on rag paper
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Waheeda Malullah uses playfulness and humour to explore social rules, and in particular the roles women play in Islamic society. In the series Light she records a performance staged expressly for the camera. By lying down next to tombs in Bahrain she exaggerates the Shi’i Muslim custom of seeking blessing by touching the tombs of revered people. These stylised compositions are also studies of form, light and shadow.

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Ahmed Mater. 'Magnetism II' 2012

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Ahmed Mater
Born Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, 1979. Lives Abha, Saudi Arabia
Magnetism II
2012
Photogravure
Acquired thanks to Mr Abdulaziz al-Turki

Ahmed Mater is a Saudi artist and qualified GP. Working in photography, calligraphy, painting, installation and video, Mater reflects his experiences as a doctor and the ways this has challenged his traditional background and beliefs, and explores wider issues about Islamic culture in an era of globalisation. In the series Magnetism, what at first appear to be pilgrims circling the Ka’ba, the sacred building at the heart of the sanctuary at Mecca, are in fact iron filings spiralling around a cube-shaped magnet. Mater refers to the spiritual force that Muslim believers feel during Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. By creating photographs that recall well-known images on a dramatically different scale, Mater also questions the reliability of photography.

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Newsha Tavakolian. From the series 'Mothers of Martyrs' 2006

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Newsha Tavakolian
Born Tehran, Iran, 1981. Lives Tehran
From the series Mothers of Martyrs
2006
Digital C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Newsha Tavakolian started her career at the age of 16, as a junior photographer for the Iranian women’s daily Zan-e Rooz. She also worked with other reformist newspapers and by the early 1990s had established herself as one of Tehran’s few female photojournalists, working internationally and particularly focussing on women’s issues. She is a founder member of the EVE international collective of women photojournalists, established in 2006 and of Rawiya, a collective of women photographers from the Middle East, founded in 2011. Her series Mothers of Martyrs shows elderly Iranian women holding framed photographs of their sons who died decades earlier in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-8). The double portraits attest to photography’s emotive power.

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Abbas Kowsari. 'Halabche' 2003

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Abbas Kowsari
Born Tehran, Iran, 1970. Lives Tehran
Halabche
2003
Digital C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Abbas Kowsari began his career as a photojournalist for the Tehran Times in 1994 and is currently Senior Picture Editor for Shargh, a popular reformist title. This photograph made in nothern Iraq presents a portrait within a portrait. The figure of a peshmerga (a Kurdish combatant) is tightly framed to exclude his face. Instead, the face of rock musician Bryan Adams, on the soldier’s T-shirt, fills a central portion of the composition. The faded black-and-white image is surrounded by saturated colours and brightly gleaming metal. The contrast reinforces the incongruity between warfare in Iraq and western pop culture.

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Abdulnasser Gharem. 'The Path (Siraat)' 2009

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Abdulnasser Gharem
Born Khamis Mushait, Saudi Arabia, 1973. Lives Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The Path (Siraat)
2009
Inkjet print on aluminium
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Abdulnasser Gharem works across a variety of media to explore local Saudi issues. Amongst his best-known works are ‘stamp paintings’, made from industrial paint on rubber stamps, a technique devised to negotiate and comment on censorship. He combines service in the Saudi armed forces (he is currently Lieutenant Colonel) with his activities as an artist.

The subject of this photograph is a bridge in southern Saudi Arabia that was severely damaged in the early 1980s when villagers attempted to take shelter on it during a flash flood. Instead of providing a safe high ground above the floodwaters the bridge collapsed, resulting in the loss of many lives. Gharem spray-painted the word siraat repeatedly on the bridge. The word means path, and in the Qur’an it refers to ‘the path to God’.

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Tal Shochat. 'Pomegranate (Rimon)' 2010

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Tal Shochat
Born Netanya, Israel, 1974. Lives Tel Aviv, Israel
Pomegranate (Rimon)
2010
C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

In her photographs Shochat stages both figures and objects to create symbolically-laden images that often question the boundary between nature and artifice. Here she applies the conventions of studio portraiture to photographing trees. The first stage in her meticulous process is to identify the perfect specimen of a particular type of tree. When the fruit is at the height of maturity, she cleans the dust off the branches, leaves and fruit. Finally, Shochat photographs the tree, artificially lit and isolated against a black cloth background. The photographs present a view of nature that would never actually exist in a natural environment. The work highlights the tensions in photography between reality and artifice.

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Yto Barrada. 'Bricks (Briques)' 2003/2011

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Yto Barrada
Born Paris, France, 1971. Lives Tangier, Morocco
Bricks (Briques)
2003/2011
C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Yto Barrada grew up in Paris and Tangier and studied in Paris and New York. Since 2006 she has directed the Cinématèque de Tanger, a cultural centre home to an archive of Maghrebi and Arabic film and video. Barrada’s hometown of Tangier is the subject of much of her work. In this view, recently constructed buildings in various states of completion are scattered across the hillsides. The pile of bricks in the foreground seems to parallel the haphazard nature of the surrounding building projects. The untidy man-made heap echoes the form of the natural hills in the background.

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Mehraneh Atashi. 'Bodiless I' 2004

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Mehraneh Atashi
Born Tehran, Iran, 1980. Lives Tehran
Bodiless I
2004
From the series Zourkhaneh Project (House of Strength)
Digital C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Mehraneh Atashi explores the relationship between photography and power in her ongoing investigation into the possibilities of self-portraiture. Her photographic series reveal lesser-known aspects of Iranian life.

This photograph shows the inside of a zurkhana, a traditional Iranian wrestling gym, in Tehran. The artist has explained that ‘tradition forbids the breath of women’ in the zurkhana. Atashi includes herself in the scene through a reflection in a mirror. This picture within a picture emphasises her incongruous presence in a place from which women are normally excluded.

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Reframing

The artists in this section appropriate or imitate images from the past in order to make statements about the present. Their sources range from studio portraiture to fashion photography, from Old Master paintings to Modernist photographs. Using a variety of techniques, they update and interrogate, knowingly combining past and present, East and West, fact and fiction. Whether emulating or critiquing, these artists reframe existing images to new ends.

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Raeda Saadeh. 'Who will make me real?' 2003

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Raeda Saadeh
Palestinian. Born Umm al Fahem, 1977. Lives Jerusalem
Who will make me real?
2003
Digital C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

In her photographs, videos and performances, Raeda Saadeh assumes various roles to explore issues of displacement, gender and identity, with particular reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here the artist lies in a pose that recalls 19th-century European paintings of reclining nudes. These often featured non-European women and ‘Orientalist’ costumes and scenery. Saadeh is encased in Palestinian newspapers, which conceal her body from neck to ankle while revealing its contours. The covering is both flimsy and apparently immobilising, resembling a papier-mâché body cast. Any sensuality implied by her pose is disrupted by the harsh realities reported in the newspaper.

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Bahman Jalali. 'Image of Imagination' 2003

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Bahman Jalali
Born Tehran, Iran, 1945. Died Tehran, 2010
Image of Imagination
2003
C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
© Rana Javadi

Jalali was a photographer and teacher who played a leading role in collecting and preserving historical photographs in Iran. He was an influential teacher, mentored many of the younger generation of Iranian photographers, and was instrumental in setting up Tehran’s first Museum of Photography (also known as Akskhaneh Shahr).

In this montage he layered Qajar-period (1786-1925) portraits and an enlarged detail of an old photographic studio sign that had been crossed out with red paint. Jalali speculated that this defacement occurred during the Islamic revolution (1978-9), perhaps as an attack on a studio where unveiled women had been photographed.

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Shadi Ghadirian. From the series 'Qajar' 1998

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Shadi Ghadirian
Born Tehran, Iran, 1974. Lives Tehran
From the series Qajar
1998
Gelatin silver print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Shadi Ghadirian was among the first students to graduate in photography from the Azad University, Tehran. Her work addresses concerns of Iranian women of her generation, exploring ideas such as censorship, religion and modernity, often with a wry humour.

The series Qajar is based on a style of photograph made during Iran’s Qajar period (1786-1925). In those portraits, sitters posed with props representing their aspirations. Here, the sitters wear costumes that approximate Qajar fashion, but the objects they pose with are jarringly modern and western – a mountain bike, a stereo or a can of Pepsi. The contrast makes a comment on the tensions between tradition and modernity that women in Iran face today.

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Youssef_Nabil_Detail_from_the_series_The_Yemeni_Sailors_of_South_Shields_2006_WEB

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Youssef Nabil
Born Cairo, Egypt, 1972. Lives New York, USA
The Yemeni Sailors of South Shields (detail)
2006
Hand-coloured gelatin silver print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Youssef Nabil’s photographs and films evoke the glamour and melodrama of the golden age of Egyptian cinema in the 1940s and 50s, known as Hollywood on the Nile. This is one of a dozen portraits made as part of a project to document the last surviving Yemeni men to settle as ship-workers in South Shields, in the north of England. The area is home to one of the oldest Muslim communities in the UK. Nabil hand-coloured the black-and-white photographs in the manner of mid 20th-century Egyptian studio portraiture.

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Hassan Hajjaj. 'Saida in Green' 2000

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Hassan Hajjaj
Born Larache, Morocco, 1961. Lives London, UK, and Marrakesh, Morocco
Saida in Green
2000
Digital C-print and tyre frame
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Hajjaj is inspired by fashion photography, while also mocking its methods. He creates playful juxtapositions between global brand names and local motifs such as veils and babouches (traditional Moroccan slippers). The result is an exuberant collision of the stereotypical symbols of western consumerism and Middle Eastern tradition. The frames, which Hajjaj constructs from recycled materials, transform the photographs into three-dimensional, sculptural objects.

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Resisting

The artists in this section question the idea that a photograph can tell the truth. Some digitally alter images. Some scratch negatives and prints, or even burn them. Other artists reject clarity and detail in favour of processes that rely on chance. The results are murky, atmospheric images that require effort to interpret. These manipulations demonstrate the fragility of the photograph, whether at the hands of artists or censors. They also lay bare the power of photographic imagery to influence and control through propaganda or surveillance. These works resist photography’s claim to accuracy and authority.

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Atiq Rahimi. 'On the threshold of time (Au seuil du temps)' 2002

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Atiq Rahimi
Born Kabul, Afghanistan, 1962. Lives Paris, France
On the threshold of time (Au seuil du temps)
2002
From the series The Imaginary Return (Le retour imaginaire)
Gelatin silver print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Atiq Rahimi is a writer, film director and photographer who fled Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in 1984, seeking political refuge in France, where he is now based. He returned to Afghanistan in 2002, after the fall of the Taliban. Confronted by the ruins of Kabul, he decided not to photograph the city with his digital camera. Instead he chose a primitive box camera normally used to take identity portraits in the streets of Kabul. The unpredictable process resulted in dreamlike photographs. They convey the nostalgia and brutal feelings of loss that Rahimi experienced when revisiting the war-wounded city.

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Jowhara AlSaud. 'Airmail' 2008

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Jowhara AlSaud
Born Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 1978. Lives Jeddah and New York, USA
Airmail
2008
From the series Out of Line
C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Jowhara AlSaud’s photographs explore the language of censorship and the malleability of photography. AlSaud scratches the outlines of figures from her personal photographs into photographic negatives, which she then prints. By reducing the figures to line drawings she renders them anonymous. The embracing figures hint at farewells and longing. The envelopes suggest thwarted attempts at communication. AlSaud’s hybrid technique of drawing and photography critiques the censorship of visual communication in Saudi Arabia.

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Şükran Moral. 'Despair' 2003

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Şükran Moral
Born Terme, Turkey, 1962. Lives Rome, Italy, and Istanbul, Turkey
Despair
2003
Digital C-print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Şükran Moral works in photography, sculpture, video and performance, creating bold and often controversial works that critique society and its institutions. Violence against women is a major theme. She has also made work about other groups who lack societal power, including the mentally ill, children, immigrants and prostitutes.

In this image, brightly-coloured birds, what Moral calls ‘digital nightingales’, perch on a group of migrant workers huddled in a boat. According to the artist, in Turkish literature nightingales are a symbol of hope, love and separation. The men and boys are shown in black-and-white, at the mercy of their situation. The birds, however, are free to fly away.

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Nermine Hammam. 'Armed Innocence II' 2011

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Nermine Hammam
Born Cairo, Egypt, 1967. Lives Cairo
Armed Innocence II
2011
From the series Upekkha
Archival inkjet print
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Influenced by a background in film and graphic design, Nermine Hammam works in series, making prints that combine elements of painting and photography, often digitally manipulating and layering images to represent subjects in states of abandonment or altered consciousness. When the army was called in to respond to the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in January 2011, Hammam was struck by the vulnerability of the soldiers. They seemed to want to be anywhere but there. In the Uppekkha series she transports these soldiers into vibrant fantasy settings. Reminiscent of postcards, the series likens the events of Tahrir Square to a tourist attraction that drew the world’s attention, but was not fully understood.

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Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. 'Wonder Beirut #13, Modern Beirut, International Centre of Water-skiing' 1997-2006

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Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
Both born Beirut, Lebanon, 1969. Live Beirut and Paris, France
Wonder Beirut #13, Modern Beirut, International Centre of Water-skiing
1997-2006
From the series Wonder Beirut: The Story of a Pyromaniac Photographer
C-print mounted on aluminium with face mounting
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
Courtesy of the artists and CRG Gallery, New York and In Situ / Fabienne Leclerc, Paris

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige collaborate as filmmakers and artists, producing cinematic and visual art work that intertwine. In the series Wonder Beirut they use photography to blur fact and fiction. The artists noticed that tourist postcards of pre-civil war Beirut were still for sale after the war ended in 1990. They invented a fictional photographer named Abdallah Farrah who, in 1968, was commissioned by the tourist board to make postcard views of Beirut’s attractions. When the civil war broke out in 1975, he began to burn his negatives to reflect the surrounding destruction. The artists present these works as prints from the fictional photographer’s damaged negatives.

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John Jurayj. 'Untitled (Large Embassy with Red Mirror #1)' 2007

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John Jurayj
Born Evanston, Illinois, USA, 1968. Lives New York, USA
Untitled (Large Embassy with Red Mirror #1)
2007
Inkjet print on watercolour paper, with burn holes and mirrored Plexiglas
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum

Using a variety of media, including painting, print-making, sculpture and video, John Jurayj explores the impact of the Lebanese civil war (1975-90), as both a world conflict and an identity trauma. He often re-works photographs of Lebanon from family albums, press archives and online databases. Here he translates the brutality of war into an attack on the photograph itself. He enlarges to near abstraction a news photograph of the bombed US embassy in Beirut in 1984. The image is further disrupted by the holes burnt into the paper. The holes are then filled in with red, mirrored Plexiglas.

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V&A Light from the Middle East website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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