Doha: The “Between Science and Art: Ancient Photography in the Middle East” exhibition at the Qatar National Library (QNL) ended successfully with hundreds of visitors exploring the exhibition between September and December 2021.
The concept of the exhibition was to present some of the first photographic images taken in the Middle East.
Although the exhibition is closed, the Heritage Library’s rich collection of valuable historical texts and manuscripts is accessible to researchers, historians and the general public in person and online.
“Qataris and foreigners will be able to virtually visit our exhibition with an immersive 360° experience, which will soon be available on our website. In addition, some of the pieces from the National Library of Qatar will be displayed in the permanent exhibition of the Library. In addition, members can freely access historical photographic material through our digital repository and the Heritage Library Reading Room,” said Giulia Martini, Archivist of Historical Photography at the National Library of Qatar.
The exhibition took visitors on a journey through the history of photography, from the invention of the camera obscura by the Arab scholar Ibn al-Haytham (354 – 430 AH/965 – 1040 CE) in the 11th century, to the advent of photomechanical printing in the 19th century.
The exhibition featured some of the oldest and rarest photographic images of the Middle East, taken by travelers, scholars and archaeologists who practiced the daguerreotype, which was the first commercially successful photographic process invented in 1839 by the French Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787 – 1851).
In its earliest manifestations, photography seemed to be more of a scientific tool than a form of artistic expression, as it is perceived today. Thus, the exhibition aimed to address both – the material aspects of photography, its influence on the construction of the “Orient”, and the intellectual debate that photography has generated in the Arab world.
The exhibition was inaugurated by HE Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kawari, Minister of State of Qatar and President of the National Library of Qatar, in the presence of HE Jean-Baptiste Faivre, Ambassador of France to Qatar. The exhibition featured objects from the collections of the Qatar Library and Museums, such as works by the pioneering French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804 – 1892) and the “Giroux Daguerreotype”, a rare example of the first camera commercially produced.
One of the aims of the exhibition is to promote historical photographic archives and distinctive collections. Qatar and the Qatar National Library have invested in developing the growing collection documenting the heritage of Qatar, the region and the Arab and Islamic world. As Archivist and Librarian of the Information Service, my job is to make these resources available to the people of Qatar and abroad.
The National Library of Qatar is well placed to promote cultural understanding and historical research on the region. The photography exhibition is one such project the Heritage Library is working on this year and we are proud to have shared valuable information on the development of photography in the region. Future exhibitions and events will continue to spread historical knowledge about the region’s heritage to future generations.