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Qatar National Library Inaugurates Exhibition “Between Science and Art: Early Photography in the Middle East”

Qatar National Library’s photography exhibition, “Between Science and Art: Early Photography in the Middle East,” opened to the public on 20 September with a brief ceremony. His Excellency Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, Minister of State, Qatar and President of Qatar National Library, inaugurated the exhibition in the presence of His Excellency Jean-Baptiste Faivre, Ambassador of the French Republic to the State of Qatar.  

The inauguration ceremony was attended by Dana Al Ghafri, Head of Museum Documentation at Qatar Museums Authority, and well-known photographers Mashael Hejazi and Khalifa Al-Obaidly, Director of Tasweer Festival. 

The exhibition focuses on stories of the first practitioners of photography and will include some of the earliest and most rare images of the Middle East, captured by renowned photographers during the early years of the medium. The Heritage Library will display objects from both Qatar National Library and Qatar Museums collections, such as the works by pioneer French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804 – 1892) and the “Giroux Daguerréotype,” a rare example of the first commercially produced cameras.  

On the occasion, His Excellency Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, Minister of State, Qatar, and President of Qatar National Library, said, “We are pleased to open the photography exhibition in the presence of His Excellency the French Ambassador and representatives from Qatar Museums, who played a major role by lending some of the oldest daguerreotype photographs and cameras on display. We are thankful to Qatar Museums for helping us enrich the exhibition and we are confident that this fruitful collaboration will continue in future projects as well.” 

His Excellency Dr. Al-Kawari further stressed that “the exhibition pays tribute to the contributions of Muslim scholars like Hassan bin Al-Haytham, who played a key role in the invention of the modern camera. Furthermore, our Heritage Library’s vision goes beyond preserving Arab history. It is also committed to providing easy access and knowledge to intellectuals, scholars, institutions and individuals, making our heritage a catalyst for creativity. We believe that the scientific achievements in the world reflect the human mind and our exhibition is in line with our belief, resulting in an amalgamation of cultures that help promote the progress of humankind. As a guardian of the nation’s and region’s heritage, we believe the photography exhibition will be an ideal opportunity for visitors to learn about Arab history and embark on a journey to the past”.   

The exhibition describes the material dimension of photography—from the daguerreotype process to some of the first printing techniques and their commercial implications—as well as photography’s effect on the construction of “the Orient” and the intellectual debate the new invention brought to the Arab world. Visitors will learn about the journey of the camera obscura between the 5th century BCE and 19th century CE, Arab contributions to photography, and the first daguerreotypists in the Middle East. 

Qatar National Library is the nation’s prime institution of reference for Arabic and Islamic heritage and civilization, and its Heritage Library provides a rich collection of valuable historical texts, manuscripts and rare items, which can be accessed by researchers, historians and the general public.  

The temporary exhibition will be available for viewing in the Heritage Library area until 30 December 2021. Visitors can book their exhibition visit by registering through this link. The Library will continue to implement its COVID-19 safety measures to provide a safe and sanitized environment for visitors. During the three-month exhibition, the Library will also be hosting small-scale virtual sessions related to photography. For a complete list of exhibition-related events, please visit the Events page on the Library’s website (www.qnl.qa/en/events). 

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