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Between Art and Science: On the Orientalist Beginnings of Photography in the Arab World

Between Art and Science: On the Orientalist Beginnings of Photography in the Arab World

In 1839, the first complete imaging process was announced at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences, after several attempts in the 1940s by French inventors Joseph Niépce and Louis Daguerre, the last one continuing after Niépce’s departure in 1833.

Historical sources indicate that a picture was taken in Egypt in the same year in which the invention of the photograph was announced, and a group of French photographers traveled to the Levant and Egypt in the following years, and photographed many natural scenes, and others from cities, as shown by many picture books. issued at that time.

“Between Science and Art: The Beginnings of Photography in the Middle East” is the title of the exhibition, which opened last Monday at the Qatar National Library in Doha, and will continue until December 30th. On the sidelines of it, a meeting will be held at five in the evening next Monday, entitled “Orientalist Photography”, in which speakers from the pioneers in collecting photographs around the East will participate.

The exhibition includes examples of the first photographic printing techniques

The exhibition goes back to the early beginnings of photography, with the rise of the camera obscura (the cockpit) all the way to the Daguerre style (after Louis Daguerre), where photography arose as a scientific tool rather than a form of artistic expression, as it is seen today. This is because many of the early photographers did not consider themselves artists but were scientists, chemists, engineers, and archaeologists who were passionate and interested in concepts related to objectivity, documentaries, and surveys.

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The organizers’ statement notes that visitors “will learn the stories of these early practitioners of photography, by presenting some of the oldest photographs taken in the Middle East, which have become an example of the beginnings of photography in the decades since the discovery of photography in 1839.”

(from exhibition)

The exhibition includes holdings from the Qatar National Library and Qatar Museums collections, such as the works of the French photographer Joseph-Philippert Girault de Prangy (1804-1892), who visited the oldest photographs of Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and Turkey, and took hundreds of photographs that were only discovered in the 1920s. the last century; That is, nearly three decades after his departure.

Barangi studied painting in Paris at the “Ecole des Beaux-Arts” in Paris, and was interested in architectural styles in the countries of the eastern Mediterranean, where he visited them in 1841, and photographed many monuments, including the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the Parthenon Temple in Athens, and the Mamluk Khayr Bey Mosque in Cairo, landscapes and portraits, whose collection exceeds nine hundred.

The exhibition also includes a collection of Giroux Daguerréotype cameras, a rare example of the first commercial cameras. It also includes a presentation of examples of the first photographic printing techniques.

The exhibition’s statement explains that “the early years of the beginnings of photography were known as the dual photography style, so the exhibition deals with the physical perspective of photography through the framework of the Dagiri photography style and some of the first printing techniques and the impact of branding on them. An intellectual discussion came parallel to the arrival of this new invention to the Arab world.

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