Through the Lens: Latif Al Ani's Visions of Ancient Iraq

A beautifully illustrated exploration of how Latif Al Ani’s photographs and contemporary Iraqi artists continue to challenge the colonial appropriation of Iraq’s ancient past


Published (US):
Dec 19, 2023
Published (UK):
Feb 6, 2024
8 x 10 in.
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Beginning in the early nineteenth century, Mesopotamian and early Islamic ruins became the focus of many Western colonial expeditions. These missions, which routinely dismissed the role and knowledge of local communities, came to shape the historical narrative of ancient civilizations and modern people. In Iraq, home to renowned sites such as Babylon, Dur-Kurigalzu, Ctesiphon, Hatra, and Samarra, foreign excavations appropriated ancient cultures and influenced how they were interpreted and transmitted. And these excavations still reverberate today in understandings of Iraqi identity. Centered around the images of pioneering Iraqi photographer Latif Al Ani (1932–2021), Through the Lens: Latif Al Ani’s Visions of Ancient Iraq highlights the voices of those who explored the Iraqi past and the deeply personal stories of those who confront its legacy, challenging the Western colonial narrative that has dominated for centuries.

The companion volume to an exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, the book features archival documents, lithographs, 1960s photography, essays that explore the rich history of ancient and modern Iraq, and the work and personal accounts of five contemporary Iraqi artists who reflect on the complex issues of Iraqi cultural identity and heritage.

Contributors include Adel Abidin, Narmin Amin, Pedro Azara, Roberta Casagrande-Kim, Abdulrahman K. Darwesh, Nelida Fuccaro, Nadine Hattom, Hanaa Malallah, Nat Muller, Mahmoud Obaidi, and Ala Younis.

Distributed for the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University

Exhibition Schedule
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
November 8, 2023–February 25, 2024