This post provides a short introduction to a history of photography (and photograph collections) in the Arabian Peninsula. It was written in March 2012 as a report of the extensive fieldwork research I did in 2011 in the framework of the Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI), organised by the Arab Image Foundation (Beirut), the Getty Conservation Institute, and the funding of the Andrew Mellow Foundation. Since I wrote this piece, several initiatives took place, including the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Akkash: Center for Photography.

Photographs found in a building about to be destroyed that used to host Studio Jamal in Kuwait City, oct. 2011

Photographs found in a building about to be destroyed that used to host Studio Jamal in Kuwait City, oct. 2011

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In these times of presents, I feel like offering a short reflection on the late historian of islamic art Oleg Grabar (1929-2011) and his legacy.  Grabar started his career when Orientalism was beyond critics and participated in reevaluating and transforming the field of Islamic studies. He managed to define the undefinable of the mixed influences and melting pot of islamic art. His studies on ornament also influenced contemporary art in Middle East and beyond. Respect.

This paper was published in the Dictionnaire des Orientalistes de langue française, 2d revised and enlarged edition, december 2012.

Block Carved with a Fan Pattern, ca. 720–724. Limestone, carved. Department of Antiquities, Qasr al-Qastal Archaeological Site, Jordan

Block Carved with a Fan Pattern, ca. 720–724. Limestone, carved. Department of Antiquities, Qasr al-Qastal Archaeological Site, Jordan

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Dictionnaire des Orientalistes de langue française, édition revue et augmentée

The Dictionnaire des Orientalistes is living a third life: the 2nd revised and enlarged edition has been released last week! It’s a new version of the Dictionnary I already talked about (see here). New entries were added, mistakes were corrected. In all, the 2d edition is about 100 pages thicker than the previous one. In the meanwhile, the team (I should write network) worked hard and published that book: Après l’orientalisme, l’Orient créé par l’Orient.  These are perfect christmas presents, aren’t they?

I was honoured to write new entries and correct old ones. I was specially honoured to write an entry for Oleg Grabar which inspired a lot my approach and still remain a model.

Happy 2012!

January 2, 2012

Best wishes for 2012Happy New Year and Best wishes for 2012!

2011 has been such a year: I wish 2012 to be… Grand!

I start it anew. Lot of changes occurred in 2011 – on a personal level, I mean, as I have been affected by the unrest in the Middle East. After a lot of movements and a long and epic fieldwork for the Arab Image Foundation, in Novembre 2011, I finally took a Project Officer position at the CFEE – Centre français des études éthiopiennes, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). I’ll be in charge of their heritage programs. In particular, I will lead the restoration works of a part of the National Museum of Ethiopia permanent exhibition. New challenges ahead!

Inventing Islamic Art suite: I’ll post some articles and excerpts published in 2011 and soon to be published here and there.
First, anticipating on the Louvre Department of Islamic Art opening, we’ll continue with a series of publications on the invention of Islamic Art. Stay tuned on this page!

Here is a short book review of Silvia Naef’s Y-a-t-il une « question de l’image » en Islam ? [litt. Is there ‘a question of image’ in Islam? / trans. Pictures and Aniconism in Islam] (Paris, Téraèdre, 2004 / published in German in 2007). It was written in 2006 but published in 2004 [sic!] in Studia Islamica. It’s available online on Jstor. If I were to write it again I would write something very different. Reviewing that book offers a chance to discuss the issues of Orientalism and how the contemporary understanding of pictures and images is embedded in the 19th c. conception of an essentialist prohibition of pictures in Islam.

A propos de Silvia Naef, Y-a-t-il une « question de l’image » en Islam ? Paris, Téraèdre (collection « l’Islam en débats »), 2004, 132 pages.

1. La question de l’image en Islam est-elle caricaturale ? « L’affaire des caricatures » aux premiers mois de 2006 a réveillé de vieux démons d’une opposition Occident-Orient. Des caricatures du Prophète de l’Islam publiées dans le magazine danois Jyllands-Posten mettaient le feu aux poudres. Pour les commentateurs, peu importaient les dessins, leur pertinence ou impertinence, le bon ou le mauvais goût, qu’ils aient été vus ou non, c’était le principe de l’interdiction de la représentation figurée (en particulier celle du Prophète) qui avait été enfreint. Ce qui était alors apparu comme une haine de l’Occident pour les uns répondait à ce qui était vécu comme une haine de l’Islam[1] pour les autres. Le débat s’est donc résumé à une opposition de partis autour d’une idée reçue sur l’Islam, des mieux enracinées dans les consciences, celle d’une société sans images. Read the rest of this entry »