The New York Public
Library has shared an
incredible gallery of over 9,000 photographs and illustrations of the
Middle East from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century.
These include, books, albums and archival compilations.
ancient Egypt and the Biblical world figured prominently in the early years
of photography. French Academician François Arago (1786-1853) endorsed the
new medium in 1839 claiming it would provide a labor-saving means “to copy
the millions and millions of hieroglyphics which entirely cover the great
monuments at Thebes, Memphis and Carnac, etc.” Immediately artist-travelers
took chemicals, cameras, and photographic plates of metal, and later glass
into the regions around the southeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea,
to record the famous sights that had been known previously to Westerners
only through the intervention of the artist’s hand.
In addition to
early photographic pioneers Du Camp, Salzmann, Robertson & Beato, and
Frith, the collection includes work by image providers catering to tourist
travelers in the last third of the 19th century, such as Arnoux, A. Beato,
Bonfils, Lekegian, Sébah, and Zangaki. The selection offers resources for
exploring Western impressions of the Middle East in that era through the
lens of practitioners of the new medium of photography, and in turn through
the expectations, preferences, and assumptions of its consumers.
Below is a curated
selection of 30 photographs of Egypt from 1870-1875. Enjoy!