Between Science and Art: Early Photography in the Middle East

In its first manifestations, from the camera obscura to the daguerreotype, photography seemed to be more of a scientific tool than a form of artistic expression, as it is perceived today. Many of the earliest photographers were scientists, chemists, engineers and archaeologists, who did not even consider themselves artists. Instead, they were interested in the concepts of objectivity, documentary and surveying.

The stories of those first practitioners are the focus of this new exhibition, which will display some of the earliest images taken in the Middle East, which became a relevant area of photographic activity in the decades after the discovery of photography in 1839. The exhibition hosts objects from both Qatar National Library and Qatar Museums collections, such as the works by pioneer French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804 – 1892) and the “Giroux Daguerréotype,” a rare example of the first commercially produced cameras.

In an effort to encompass the dual nature of photography, especially in its early years, the exhibition describes the material dimension of photography—from the daguerreotype process to some of the first printing techniques and their commercial implications—as well as photography’s effect on the construction of “the Orient” and the intellectual debate the new invention brought to the Arab world.

Date: 20 September – 30 December 2021

Time: During the Library’s opening hours

Language: Arabic and English 

Target Audience: General public