Monday, 20 January 2014

Review of Akram Zaatari: On Photography People and Modern Times at Thomas Dane Gallery

Akram Zaatari: On Photography People and Modern Times
Thomas Dane Gallery
27 November 2013 - 1 February 2014

With the advent of the selfie and, before that, amateur photography, the studio portrait has become more and more a thing of the past. Once, however, it was an essential part of the visual vernacular. For nearly 50 years, from 1953, Hashem al-Madani ran a photographic studio, Studio Sheherazade, in Saïda, South Lebanon. Working from seven a.m. until midnight, seven days a week, and charging just seven cents per photograph, Madani finally earned enough money to send his sons to study in the USA. Simultaneously, he became Saïda’s leading photographer, amassing an archive of some 500,000 images, and, by his own estimate, photographing 90% of the city’s population.

His studio was a place where people could escape from everyday life – and, latterly, the horrors of civil war – and enjoy the freedom to dress up and become someone else, or, simply, to relax and become themselves. Madani was not just a portrait photographer, but also an artist, and the images he made preserve their subjects’ individuality; they document an era, a city and its people.

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