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"Sight-seeing: Photography of the Middle East and its Audiences,1840-1940"
2000-12-08 until 2001-04-22
Fogg Museum, Harvard
Cambridge, MA, USA

Littered with remains of great civilizations, witness to events of the Bible, and governed by fierce Muslim warriors who kept their women secluded in harems, the Middle East has enthralled the imagination of the West since the Crusades.

In the 19th century, as the Ottoman Empire weakened, parts of the Middle East became the subject of renewed Western colonial ambitions. To serve these interests, a flood of Middle Eastern imagery satu-rated Western visual and literary representation. Photography was one such medium of representation that also helped create and disseminate complex and often contradictory cultural attitudes about the region.

This exhibition explores the ways in which the medium of photography provided encounters with the landscapes, monuments, and peoples of the Middle East to a broad public during photography’s first century. Drawn primarily from the Harvard Semitic Museum and other Harvard University collections, the exhibition features typical and unusual views of the region that were produced through amateur, institutional, and commercial efforts for a range of audiences. Artistic, missionary, scholarly, commercial, and strategic military concerns were advanced through photography using a variety of presentation forms—albums, published works, stereo views, lantern slides, panoramas, postcards—that allowed photographs to function as surrogates for sight or as souvenirs of travel experience, thereby shaping attitudes about the Middle East.


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