Saturday, January 26, 2013

Light From the Middle East

Of all the London Things that excite me, the museums and galleries are up there with at the top (with the food.) Life has somewhat got in the way of doing many London Things since we got here but last weekend my sister-not-in-law, her sister (in blood) and I went to the V&A for an afternoon of culture (and food. And if I'm honest, the shop was a pretty big draw too.) But the culture: we went to see Light From the Middle East, a collection of contemporary work by artists from across the Middle East (both resident and diaspora). I don't normally love what I know of contemporary photography, art school pretty much killed my patience for large format prints of well lit shopping trolleys representing the loneliness of the human condition. But when the photography is dealing with politics as opposed to the angst of the wealthy white art student, my patience lasts a little longer.

I particularly loved the work of Atiq Rahimi, an Afghani photographer and film maker living in Paris who returned to Kabul in 2002 after 18 years of exile. He wanted to photograph the city and its changes but he felt that the photos that he took with his digital camera couldn't convey the emotion that  he felt on returning to his home, seeing it so changed since he had last stepped foot there. And so he started experimenting with pinhole cameras, and the pictures that he made went much further than crisp mega pixels ever could in capturing the muddled, dreamlike feeling of returning home after exile.

 Photographs by Atiq Rahimii © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pinhole cameras are true magic; a box with a hole punched in it, some photographic paper taped inside, a guessed exposure time, and hope. The results are unpredictable, you might get an image or you might (as I always have) get a piece of over-exposed white paper.

These photos are tiny, maybe 5x8cm. To see them you have to get up close, hold your face mere inches from the frame. You feel like you are peering through a crack in a wall, a door left ajar, and catching a glimpse of someone else's memories. These tiny photos are so much that I love about photography.


  1. Reminds me of Francis Frith, when photography first explored.

  2. I know shitall about photography, but you made me want to go and see this now.

    Have you seen the Jonas Mekas exhibition at the serpentine?

    I'm all for hearing your London exhibition recommendations please thank you (impending unemployment means more time for museums:)

  3. These are beautiful and this is the exact reason I would want to live in London

  4. Last SUnday we went to the V&A as we'll. I really wanted to see this exposition. My father is a photojournalist and he has always been interested in the Middle East (my second name is Leila for that reason).My favorite photographer was Issa Touma who did the series on the Sufi festival: the day of Al-ziyara. But the series you showed Atiq Rahimi was also one of the ones I liked the most. I love London so much.


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