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Photography and Egypt

Egypt immediately conjures images of the pyramids, the temples and the Sphinx in the desert. Early photographs of Egypt took these ancient monuments as their primary subjects, and these have remained hugely influential in constructing our view of the country. But while Egypt and its monuments have been regularly photographed by foreigners, little has been known about the early days of photography among Egyptians. Photography and Egypt examines both, considering images from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, including studio portraits, landscapes and photojournalism.

Two forces drove photography’s early development in Egypt: its link as an essential tool of archaeology and the accelerating effects of archaeological photographs on the burgeoning tourism industry. In this book, Maria Golia examines these twin drives, through the work of Europeans who travelled to Egypt as well as early Egyptian and Middle Eastern photographers. Golia examines how photography was also employed for propaganda purposes, including depictions of celebrated soldiers, workers and farmers; and how studio-based photography was used to portray the growing Egyptian middle class. Today’s young photographic artists, Golia reveals, use the medium to celebrate everyday life and to indict political and social conditions, with photography bearing witness to history––as well as helping to shape it.

Illustrated with a rich, sometimes surprising variety of images, many published for the first time in the West, Photography and Egypt is the first book to relate the story of Egypt’s rapport with photography in one concise and highly readable account.

192 pages | 77 color plates, 44 halftones | 7 1/2 x 8 2/3 | © 2010


Art: Photography

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“An admirable and precise historical analysis and critique of the conditions under which photographs were produced in Egypt, as well as an assessment of their impact on the region.”

Catherine David, chief curator, Musées de France

“Maria Golia’s relaxed prose belies her careful research on the subject of foreign and Egyptian enthusiasts of this most suspiciously regarded of visual arts . . . While Golia’s observations on the role of photography ‘as a midwife for the birth of mass tourism’ are acute, more striking is her exploration of how Egyptians embraced the ‘ficitionalization’ of their country . . . Golia ends with the hope that the book’s images will suggest the value of honoring a photographic legacy ‘integral to Egypt’s self-understanding.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Golia is a terrific writer, and she brings to Photography and Egypt the same easygoing prose that made her earlier book, Cairo: City of Sand, such a pleasure to read . . . Golia’s intense and unyielding affection for the place . . . is balanced by wry humor and an occasionally brutal critique of the censorious nature of the current regime, the paranoia of life under emergency law, and the lethargy perpetuated by a swollen and ineffectual state bureaucracy.”


Table of Contents


Seeing Time

The Window of Appearance

Studio Venus

‘Kings Never Die’

The Show of Shows

Epilogue: ‘We are Old’


Selected Bibliography


Photo Acknowledgements


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