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The Arab Imago:
A Social History of Portrait Photography, 1860–1910
Stephen Sheehi

Hardcover | 2016 | $45.00 | £37.95 | ISBN: 9780691151328
264 pp. | 7 x 10 | 100 halftones.
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The birth of photography coincided with the expansion of European imperialism in the Middle East, and some of the medium's earliest images are Orientalist pictures taken by Europeans in such places as Cairo and Jerusalem—photographs that have long shaped and distorted the Western visual imagination of the region. But the Middle East had many of its own photographers, collectors, and patrons. In this book, Stephen Sheehi presents a groundbreaking new account of early photography in the Arab world.

The Arab Imago concentrates primarily on studio portraits by Arab and Armenian photographers in the late Ottoman Empire. Examining previously known studios such as Abdullah Frères, Pascal Sébah, Garabed Krikorian, and Khalil Raad, the book also provides the first account of other pioneers such as Georges and Louis Saboungi, the Kova Brothers, Muhammad Sadiq Bey, and Ibrahim Rif'at Pasha—as well as the first detailed look at early photographs of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. In addition, the book explores indigenous photography manuals and albums, newspapers, scientific journals, and fiction.

Featuring extensive previously unpublished images, The Arab Imago shows how native photography played an essential role in the creation of modern Arab societies in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon before the First World War. At the same time, the book overturns Eurocentric and Orientalist understandings of indigenous photography and challenges previous histories of the medium.

Stephen Sheehi is the Sultan Qaboos bin Said Chair of Middle East Studies at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Foundations of Modern Arab Identity and Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign against Muslims.


"The book is an ambitious and theoretically challenging study, a significant and original work of social analysis. . . . What makes the book unique is the fact that it offers an explicit answer to the master narratives of 'the history of Middle Eastern photography' by switching the focus of interest from photography in the service of the colonizers to an interest in the history of the photography of the late Ottoman Arab world. . . . Sheehi provides, as well as an extraordinarily informative book, an initial path through the unexplored universe of indigenous photographers, studios, and studio practices of the Ottoman Arab world. . . . The Arab Imago is fundamental reading for scholars not only of the history of photography, but also of the modern Middle East."--Carmen Pérez González, CAA Reviews

"A valuable contribution. . . . Sheehi’s text is a deep scholarly investigation of portrait photography in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that lays out a new methodology for examining historical photographs from indigenous photographers of the Ottoman world and potentially other regions of the global South, thereby adding an important, missing element to the field of photo-history."--Tina Barouti, H-AMCA, H-Net Reviews

"An ambitious project . . . [that] charts new trails in the social history of Middle Eastern photography."--Hala Auji, The Art Bulletin


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Table of Contents:

Contents ix
Acknowledgments xi
Note on Translations and Transliterations xv
INTRODUCTION Proem to Indigenista Photography xvii
1 An Empire of Photographs: Abdullah Frères and the Osmanlilik Ideology 1
2 The Arab Imago: Jurji Saboungi and the Nahdah Image-Screen 27
3 The Carte de Visite: The Sociability of New Men and Women 53
4 Writing Photography: Technomateriality and the Verum Factum 75
5 Portrait Paths: The Sociability of the Photographic Portrait 103
6 Stabilizing Portraits, Stabilizing Modernity 121
7 The Latent and the Afterimage 141
8 The Mirror of Two Sanctuaries and Three Photographers 163
EPILOGUE On the Cusp of Arab Ottoman Photography 193
Notes 204
Index 218
Illustration Credits 221

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File created: 9/7/2017

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