Light from the Middle East

In quite a contrast to the frivolities of the V&A’s current Ballgowns exhibition or the forthcoming Hollywood costume show, November sees the opening of the first major museum exhibition of contemporary photography from and about the Middle East.

Joanna Hadjithomas Kalhil Joreige, Wonder Beirut

Source: Copyright VA. Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the VA and the British Museum

Joanna Hadjithomas Kalhil Joreige, Wonder Beirut

The show will feature major works of contemporary photography focusing on the Middle East, covering works documenting events in the region form the last 20 years, right up to work made in response to the Arab Spring.

Nermine Hammam, from the series Upekkha, 2011

Source: Copyright V and A. Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V and A and the British

Nermine Hammam, from the series Upekkha, 2011

Photographers from 13 different countries will be featured in the show, including Abbas (Iran), Youssef Nabil (Egypt) and Walid Raad (Lebanon) and emerging talents including Taysir Batniji (Palestine), Shadi Ghadirian (Iran) and Abdulnasser Gharem (Saudi Arabia).

Mehraneh Atashi, Bodiless I from the series Zourkhaneh Project House of Strengh, 2004

Source: Copyright V and A. Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V and A and the British

Mehraneh Atashi, Bodiless I from the series Zourkhaneh Project House of Strengh, 2004

Marta Weiss, curator of the exhibition, says, ‘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 will celebrate the creative and sophisticated ways that contemporary artists use photography to respond to the complexities of the Middle East.’

Newsha Tavakolian, from the series Mothers of Martyrs, 2006

Source: Copyright V and A. Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V and A and the British

Newsha Tavakolian, from the series Mothers of Martyrs, 2006

Subject matter includes photojournalism, digitally manipulated imagery and staged portraiture, with all works organised under three themes –  Recording, Reframing and Resisting.

London and Marrakech-based designer and artist Hassan Hajjaj frequently re-appropriates European stereotype to fit them into the North African world, merging Middle Eastern fashion and designer brands:

Hassan Hajjaj, Saida in Green, 2000

Source: Copyright VA. Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the VA and the British Museum

Hassan Hajjaj, Saida in Green, 2000

We love this image (below) by Saudi Arabian based photographer Jowhara AlSaud, who explores ‘the language of censorship and the malleability of photography’ in her work, according to he V&A:

Jowhara AlSaud, Airmail from the series Out of Line, 2008

Source: Copyright VA. Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V and A and the British Mus

Jowhara AlSaud, Airmail from the series Out of Line, 2008

This photograph by Shadi Ghadirian is also particularly arresting. From her 1998 Qajar series, in this image Ghadirian is recreating a 19th century Iranian studio portrait using 20th Century props:

Shadi Ghadirian, from the series Qajar, 1998

Source: Copyright V and A. Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V and A and the British

Shadi Ghadirian, from the series Qajar, 1998

Light from the Middle East: New Photography runs from 13 November – 7 April 2013 at theVictoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7

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  • Mark Magidson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    When I toured this “Light” of the Middle East exhibition- I tried to find the section by Israeli photographers. Could not find them- had someone turned the lights off in this gallery?

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