The images subtly address the subject of Orientalism and the Western gaze.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The Workshop Dubai and Fann A Porter are presenting (Feb. 19 – Mar. 14) a selection of hand-coloured photographic prints from Barry Iverson’s The Tour series. The prints take reference from classic Cairo cinema, antique postcards and the photographer’s extensive archive of imagery. The photographs cleverly juxtapose old and new so that in one image, the viewer simultaneously views life in the 19th and 20th centuries.
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Iverson (b. 1956, USA) is a former photographer for TIME Magazine. His work has also been published in such wide-ranging publications as National Geographic, New York Times, Life, People, Geo, Paris Match and Stern.
In 1985, he won a Fulbright Fellowship to research the history of photography in Egypt, and concurrently taught photography at the American University in Cairo. He has produced several fine art portfolios, including Egyptian Desert Views I & II, Cairo I & II, Sand & Stone, Comparative Views of Harvard, Comparative Views of Egypt, Aged, The Cinders of Gawhara Palace, Tahrir Square 2011 and The Tour.
His 25-year long career as a photojournalist for Time magazine gave him a window into stories that have shaped politics and social life in Egypt and across the Middle East.
He shot in large format 8x10inch for much of his early documentary work along with other film and digital formats. The Tour is a fictional narrative series shaped by photographic history, documentary work and cinematic influences.
Through his lens, he witnessed seismic events such as the assassination of Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat; but he also trained his photographer’s eye on the detail of Cairo life: its people, architecture, culture, and history – all of which culminates in his art.
Iverson has been living and working in Egypt for more than forty years. Using film and a large format camera for much of his work and printing in a traditional wet dark-room, his photographs, rich in detail and tone, revisit the earlier days of the medium.
He has long explored issues of memory and its historical context and the desert landscape has been of particular interest to him for many years. He played an important role in rescuing the archive of Master Photographer Van Leo and in reviving the hand-coloured process made famous in the first half of the 20th century, a tradition that harks back to historical picture postcards.
His Fulbright Scholarship was awarded to research the history of photography in Egypt. He was influenced by his predecessors in the region such as Frith, Green, Du Camp and Hunt & Baker. This is evident in much of his work as is the documentary work of Walker Evans.
He is represented in several private and public collections, including Harvard University and the American University in Cairo. In 1994, he published the much sought after Comparative Views of Egypt, Cairo: One Hundred Years Later (Zeitouna).
The View from Gawhara Palace, Cairo, 1980/1880s, seen n the exhibition, depicts the rooftop of the palace that stands in the citadel of Cairo commissioned by Muhammed Ali Pasha, the Ottoman ruler of Egypt in 1814.
In the image, the smog-heavy orange skies of the Egyptian capital fill the background and two women stand in the centre, dressed in the traditional clothing of the farming society of the 19th century - one with an urn on her head and the other carrying a large basket. In one image therefore, the ancient world meets the modern.
Another piece (Hypostyle Hall, Karnak, 1999/1930s) is a portrait of an elegant woman dressed in 1930s attire, standing amid the towering columns of the Great Hypostyle Hall within the Karnak temple complex in Luxor, home to many ancient Egyptian treasures. The hand-painted style here forces the viewer to question which is real and which is fictional.
The exhibition also takes viewers outside of Egypt to Damascus, Doha, Baghdad, Aqaba and even Paris, with each image casting the narrative into the past yet retelling it in a contemporary context. They reveal a tension in the relationship between past and present and the inhabitants of these ancient cities, as well as subtly addressing the subject of Orientalism and the Western gaze.
Ghada Kunash, founder of Fann A Porter said that “this work is crucial to understanding the layers of history in the cities of our region. The photography technique takes the viewers into a space of documentary fiction, where we are not sure which parts of the story are real and which are imagined.
“We are proud to present the work of Barry Iverson, which offers an interesting place for discussion with regards to the way the cities of the Middle East are viewed today and historically.”
Fann A Porter is a contemporary art gallery that represents a diverse selection of emerging international and regional artists. It aims to nurture the burgeoning and dynamic contemporary art scene through quality exhibitions, non-profit events, auctions and an active community programme. It has locations in Dubai and Amman, Jordan.
The Dubai gallery is based at The Workshop, an inter-disciplinary community space consisting of a cafe, art gallery, sustainable store and design space, providing visitors with a diversified artistic and cultural experience. The Workshop is located in the heart of Jumeirah in Dubai.
Fann A Porter Amman is located at Manara Arts & Culture, a creative hub and social space in the heart of Jabal Al Lweibdeh.
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