Arts & Culture

Light from the Middle East

This exhibition is fascinating and contains many really exciting works and the entrance is free.

The V&A has been collecting art from the Middle East and photography since its foundation in the 1850s.  Thanks to the Art Fund, the V&A and the British Museum started building up a collection of photography from the Middle East in 2009, and this exhibition represents a selection of those photographs.

The exhibition title, the curator’s statement and even the names of the exhibition sections are somewhat misleading and best ignored.    One supposes the diversity of the photographs led the curator to choose a short snappy exhibition title – it is not clear what ‘light’ refers to.  The ‘Middle East’ itself is a loose term, as the photographers come from North Africa to Central Asia, and many are based in Europe.  The curator’s statement that some of the photographs record but others show how photography can be deceptive, could in fact describe just about any photography exhibition.  The titles of the three sections – Recording, Reframing and Revisiting – are not particularly enlightening either, as the categories dissolve one into another.

What the exhibition does is introduce about 30 Middle Eastern photographers to a public largely unfamiliar with their work and, better still, it presents some extraordinary work, which is not just stimulating or stirring on a socio-political level (not surprising given the background of most of these countries) but exciting aesthetically and moving on a human level, especially as most of us are inured and somewhat desensitized to photographs of atrocities, killings, terrorist bombings etc. in various Middle Eastern countries.

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Wednesday, January 16th, 2013