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Oxford School of Photography
insights into photography
Tag Archives: Middle East
Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East
May 8, 2013Posted by on
An exhibition in Edinburgh (London in the Autumn) and talks on BBC Radio 4 by John McCarthy about the early work of Victorian photographer Francis Bedford.
In 1862 Albert, Prince of Wales, toured the Middle East. At the time it was still predominantly controlled by the Ottoman Empire. As he travelled, his photographer Francis Bedford kept a detailed photographic record of the trip. In this series John McCarthy revisits the scenes of Bedford’s photographs – Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Greece. He considers how the immediate physical, political and social landscape has evolved during the intervening 150 years.
Some of Bedford’s photographs are of widely known locations – the Pyramids at Giza, the Mount of Olives, the temples at Baalbek, the Acropolis – others are of remote hilltops and apparently random buildings, scenes without any obvious significance. Both however hold fascinating and unexpected tales and insight.
The series will reflect on the rise and fall of empires – the Ottoman, British and French all play their part in these stories. They are now all gone, but the world’s powers still seek to influence the politics of the region.
In each episode John McCarthy focusses on two of Bedford’s original photographs, revisiting the sites and taking his own pictures of the same scenes today.
In the opening programme, John travels to Egypt to consider pictures of the Prince’s party gathered in front of the Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre at Giza, and a broader Cairo picture taken from a key minaret in the city.
This radio series coincides with a major exhibition of Bedford’s photographs by the Royal Collection, currently showing at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh….Go here for the John McCarthy Radio Broadcast
Cairo to Constantinople
Friday, 08 March 2013 to Sunday, 21 July 2013 The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
In 1862, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was sent on a four-month educational tour of the Middle East, accompanied by the British photographer Francis Bedford (1815-94). This exhibition documents his journey through the work of Bedford, 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. He met rulers, politicians and other notable figures, and travelled in a manner unassociated 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’. See all the details of the exhibition here
Francis Bedford (1816-1894) Bibliography
…..Bedford began to photograph as an amateur sometime around 1852, with the intent to aid himself in his lithographic work. His book, The Treasury of Ornamental Art, has been described as “probably the first important English work where photography was called into play to assist the draughtsman.”
But Bedford also began to pursue the creative aspects of photography as well.
The 1850s was a period of enormous growth for photography in England. Frederick Scott Archer had just perfected the wet-collodion process and photography, though still difficult to use, suddenly became both more accessible and far more useful in a wide variety of ways. Archaeologists, anthropologists, botanists, geologists, art and architectural historians, scientists and learned men of every stripe were realizing that photography not only facilitated their studies, but that accurate, exact, and exactly duplicatable visual records made it possible to expand the dimensions of their respective disciplines beyond levels impossible to reach before photography’s invention….read more here
From our man (still) in Damascus, John Wreford words and pictures
April 2, 2013Posted by on
Our great friend John Wreford is sticking it out in Damascus for the time being, it is his home and has been for 10 years. To many his reluctance to leave would seem to be verging on the insane but John is a man of great fortitude. When I had the chance to travel with him through Syria in 2009 I found that everywhere we went he was greeted like a brother. People would stop him in the streets to say hello and embrace him, hotels we stayed at refused to take payment treating him like family, it didn’t seem to matter where we were there was someone who knew him. I guess that is why he is still there. This piece he has written for Roads and Kingdoms, here are the opening passages…
Damascenes have long told themselves that their city is where all journeys, all religions and all civilisations begin and end. We who live there now also know that Damascus will be where the final battle for control of Syria will be fought.
Rebel forces are gathered just a few kilometers from the stone walls of the Old City, and inside the walls for almost a year now we have lived with the terrifying sounds of war, the scream of fighter jets, gun battles raging and shells flying overhead. War on our doorstep.
For me the only journeys I ever take these days are around the souks and alleyways of my neighborhood. On these walks I am not only trying to get a sense of the situation, but also a bit of the reassurance that comes from seeing the market busy with shoppers and children heading off to school. I drop in on friends and get updates on the crisis. Often it’s only gossip and rumor, but there are few other reliable sources of information. I check to see what food is in the market and at what price, as there have been days when fresh food and bread have been scarce. Those are the things on my mind as I slam the heavy metal door of my house and head out into the warren of passageways tucked in a corner of the Old City between the ancient gates of Bab Touma and Bab Salam.
Outside my door all is quiet. The street cleaner has collected the rubbish and the cats have retired for a morning nap in the shade of satellite dishes on the wonky roofs. A hose pipe peeks out from behind a door and a woman sprays water over the dusty cobbles. The alley here is no wider than an arm’s length. It doglegs a couple of times, ambles down a few stone steps and underneath an archway, past a small local mosque with a pretty courtyard dotted with potted plants. Despite most of the neighborhood being Muslim, few seem to visit this Mosque. Another couple of steps and another arch and then I see the first sign that life here is not as it used to be: there’s a checkpoint, not military but civilian…..MORE
Light from the Middle East: New Photography
December 5, 2012Posted by on
Contemporary photography from and about the Middle East by 30 artists working across 13 countries, including Abbas from Iran, Egyptian Youssef Nabil and Walid Raad from Lebanon. The work reflects on the political events that have effected the region over the past 20 years, as well as the social and religious life of its people.
Nov 13-Apr 7 2013 Opening times 10.00 to 17.45 daily 10.00 to 22.00 Fridays Full details here
Tal Shochat, ‘Pomegranate (Rimon)’
Yto Barrada, ‘Bricks (Briques)’
Waheeda Malullah, from the series ‘Light’
Nermine Hammam, ‘The Break’, from the series ‘Upekkha’, 2011
Light from the Middle East: New Photography presents work by artists from across the Middle East (spanning North Africa to Central Asia), living in the region and in diaspora.
The exhibition explores the ways in which these artists investigate the language and techniques of photography. Some use the camera to record or bear witness, while others subvert that process to reveal how surprisingly unreliable a photograph can be. The works range from documentary photographs and highly staged tableaux to images manipulated beyond recognition. The variety of approaches is appropriate to the complexities of a vast and diverse region. MORE Here
Damascus – life interrupted – Our Man In Damascus – John Wreford
October 5, 2012Posted by on
Our great friend John Wreford is still in his house in the old city in Damascus, he no longer feels safe enough to walk the streets with his camera but he writes for Your Middle East, here is his latest article
The universal image of washing © John Wreford
The image of washing blowing in the breeze is as universal an image as you will find anywhere in the world, an image of the everyday, domesticity, perhaps an indication of the less well off or working class, a sign of daily life, of family, his overalls, the kids school uniform.
Syria is not so different, in the villages you see the colours flapping in the wind although not so much in the city, maybe on the roof or in the courtyard but more often than not hanging on the balcony hidden from view by a curtain, modesty dictates underwear is not supposed to be on public display. I am not sure why the subject gets my attention other than my natural inquisitiveness of the human condition, I like to photograph people, I like to understand how they live, for sure it’s not a fetish, the souk of al Hamadiyya would surely satisfy that with its gaudy penchant for titillation, risqué lingerie juxtaposed alongside hijab.
Wandering the streets of Damascus without my camera doesn’t stop my eye from being drawn to the subjects that interest me most: its people and their lives. They are going about their business as best they can, some would have us believe as normal, well for the most part shop and office are open and the streets are busy but we all know it’s not normal and that in fact it’s quite terrible, on a good day the sound of the traffic and its incessant honking will drown out the sound of the helicopter gunships or the shelling in the suburbs, the checkpoints tend to fade away in many places during the day, we all know terrorists only come out after dark, the devil though is said to be in the details and it’s the washing that catches my eye. READ MORE HERE
John wrote an earlier diary piece for the Your Middle East
Syrian security forces taking position in the Al-Midan district of Damascus on July 18
An image grab taken from Syrian TV shows Syrian security forces taking position during armed clashes with gunmen who the TV called “terrorists” (unseen) in the Al-Midan district of Damascus on July 18. For the first time in decades, the eve of Ramadan in Syria’s capital is overshadowed by fear. Panic has engulfed the city amid unprecedented combat after a bombing killed three top officials. © AFP/SYRIAN TV/File
A warm summer evening sitting in a central Damascus restaurant overlooking the city, the mountain of Qasyun lit like a Christmas tree, we were under no illusion all was well in Syria. But here in the capital life went on almost as usual. We discussed how things the last week or so had calmed down, then for a moment we paused for thought, the calm before the storm perhaps.
No more than a few days later the storm well and truly blew into town. For months, the opposition and regime had been battling each other in the outer suburbs of Damascus. The sounds of shelling and artillery echoed across the city, peaceful protestors were still coming out in large numbers, more and more clashes could be heard, but by and large everything tended to take place in certain areas.
It was pretty well known that the Free Syrian Army had been moving into Damascus and was encamped in the more militant neighbourhoods such as Midan and Kfra Souseh. But many of us felt able to go about life as usual despite knowing that sooner or later things would change. From Sunday we felt that change. The war had been on the doorstep but was now passing over the threshold, more explosions, more shooting, the awful sounds moving closer and closer, the continuous drone of helicopters that had become a regular feature over recent weeks.
Where I live in the Old City between Bab Touma and Bab Salam, ancient houses in a warren of alleyways, things were calm, children playing in the streets and many preparing for Ramadan. I would sit on my roof early morning and in the evening, able to get more of a fix on where the sounds of gunfire may be coming from. I can see very little, four large satellite dishes prostrated toward Mecca have seen to that. Monday through Tuesday the fighting became more intense, my house shook as a helicopter was shot down in Qaboun and at one point a couple of stray bullets whizzed through the air above my head, the sound like an email being despatched from an iPhone. The explosions and gunfire continued all through the night. READ MORE HERE
If we believed in a god, and let’s face it the evidence is all to the contrary, we would pray for John’s safety, as it is we trust in his good sense and innate humanity, he is in our thoughts, if you want to see more of his work have a look here
April 20, 2012Posted by on
An unique text and photo essay explores Egypt’s sprawling metropolis as it undergoes one of the most dramatic transformations in its history. Released as part of a new project bringing writers and photographers together on in-depth works, it is available for free in a one-off newspaper format – order details are below.
For fourteen centuries, Egypt’s capital has risen within a pair of stubbornly-persistent natural boundaries – the Moqattam clifftops to the west, and the Saharan desert to the east. Now for the first time Cairo is bursting its banks, sending boutique villas and water-hungry golf courses tumbling into the sand dunes, and reshaping the political and psychological contours of the largest megacity in Africa and the Middle East.Amid an uncertain tide of political change, the controversial ‘satellite cities’ project is dramatically transforming peripheries into new urban centres and consigning old focal points to a life on the margins. Against the backdrop of national revolution, photographer Jason Larkin and writer Jack Shenker collaborated for two years to produce ‘Cairo Divided’, a free hard-copy publication exploring the capital’s rapidly-mutating urban landscape.
Jason Larkin is a documentary photographer and part of the Panos photo agency in London. Previously based in Cairo, his career has seen him shooting for international periodicals across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. His work has been recognized with multiple awards, including the prestigious PDN Arnold Newman Portraiture prize. He is currently based between London and Johannesburg – http://www.jasonlarkin.co.uk.
Jack Shenker is a London-born writer who has reported from across the globe, with work spanning Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Gaza and the Mediterranean. Since 2008, he has been Egypt correspondent for the Guardian, and his coverage of the 2011 Egyptian revolution won the Amnesty International Gaby Rado award for excellence in human rights journalism. He is currently based in London and Cairo – http://www.jackshenker.net.
Hard copies of ‘Cairo Divided’ are available at no cost beyond postage and packaging fees. Full details here
Olivier Laurent writing in the BJP has this to say
Jason Larkin: Cairo Divided
Cairo Divided © Jason Larkin.
Divided is a two-year investigation into Cairo’s social and architectural changes, self-published for the first time in its entirety in newspaper form.
Jason Larkin had been working for two years on Divided when he and journalist Jack Shenker decided to publish it in newspaper format. “We never thought about how it was going to end up,” Larkin tells BJP. “Jack was writing long essays, but when they were published in The Guardian or other titles, they were condensed. We thought it would be nice to publish unabridged essays.”
Divided is the story of how the megacity, Cairo, is turning itself inside out. “The project started when I was living very close to the American University of Cairo,” says Larkin. “I remember when the university announced it would be moving to the outskirts of Cairo, a lot of people were surprised. The university sees a lot of students from abroad thinking they would be studying in Cairo, but instead they’d find themselves in the desert.”
Larkin checked the situation out for himself, visiting the construction sites of these huge, new compounds. “There was a lot going on, but no one was speaking about it in Cairo,” he says. “I started investigating, and found these huge developments.” Quickly he realised that once completed, there would be a massive exodus of people from the city to the outskirts.
But these new cities lacked “all the bits they need to function as normal cities,” he explains. “There are huge compounds, ministries, headquarters, office blocks, but no social housing.” The poorest and working classes wouldn’t be able to move to these new towns, in effect dividing Cairo’s population, he says. “I was alarmed by that. I wondered how Cairo was going to change when people start to move there.”
His images, with Shenker’s essays, have now been released in a 32-page newspaper self-published by Larkin in association with Panos Pictures. “There were many reasons for choosing this format – the first one was because of the elections in Egypt. I really liked the idea of coming out with something free that I’d be able to pass on to universities or people learning the politics or the language of this country. I thought it would be a great way to reach people. Egypt is in a very complicated situation and I think a lot of the time people miss out on the real context of what is going on. They are just hearing the daily news. I thought it would be great if people were able to pick up a copy of Divided and have a better understanding of what is actually going on in Cairo and in Egypt.” ..….MORE
Read more: http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/project/2127269/jason-larkin-cairo-divided#ixzz1sahvwaok
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Stunning Portraits from the Islamic World
September 1, 2011Posted by on
There are some very nice images in this post from Lightstalking, here is what they have to say
“Anyone who is lucky enough to have travelled anywhere in the Islamic world will know it is a trove of diversity, colour and remarkable photographic opportunities. As in most travel spots, chief among the photographic opportunities are the people. We think this collection shows a good spread of what can be achieved with portraits when travelling in many places of the Islamic world and might even have you reaching for your passport.”....more pictures are here
You might also like to have a look at the web site of our great friend David Constantine, he has spent a lot of time in Afghanistan his site link is here
Click Here: Stunning Portraits from the Islamic World
Photographer John Moore on Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya Uprisings
April 8, 2011Posted by on
As many of you know, there have been a few uprisings in the Middle East. If you’d like to hear a eyewitness account from a photographer, then I recommend taking the time to view this interview with John Moore, who was on assignment covering the countries of Egypt, Bahrain and Libya during their conflicts.
This is an absolutely riveting interview that goes perfectly with some amazing photos of the unrest and violence.
Patrick Baz Is in His Element in Libya
March 22, 2011Posted by on
You must have seen the iconic image of the fighter jet spear to earth on the front of the newspapers at the weekend, here is an interview with the photographer Patrick Baz. Patrick Baz, 47, is the Middle East photo manager for Agence France-Presse, based in Cyprus. He has been covering the conflict in Libya since the end of February. His telephone conversation with Kerri MacDonald and David Furst on Monday night has been edited and condensed….more here
Istanbul, Memory of Orhan Pamuk
October 30, 2010Posted by on