new photography from the middle east

3 December 2012 § Leave a comment

Western artists have got it easy, and they should visit this exhibition to see just why.

New Photography from the Middle East is an excellent concise exhibition giving an overview of some of the very best in contemporary photography from the region. Given the politics from the region the work here is deeply imbued with suffering, death, repression and anger.

Ahmed Mater

What you will not find here is dull and pretentious art – like the silly constructions of household objects (Isa Genzken at Hauser & Wirth) or bored students walking around with mirrored sandwich boards (Josiah McElheny at White Cube) that I saw in recent days.

Tal ShochatThe exhibition is separated in to three key themes; Recording, Reframing  and Resisting. In the opening section we see that the photograph is a powerful tool for recording people, places and eventsAhmed Matyr at the same time questions its reliability by using a magnet and iron filings to create an image that looks like pilgrims at Mecca (above) whilst Tal Shochat selects ‘pefect’ trees, washes them down and adds a fake background. He questions photographic reality.

Hassan HajjajThe second section reframes and reworks existing styles or images. Hassan Hajjaj takes inspiration from fashion photography to create fascinating collisions between Western consumerism and Middle Eastern ideals (above) whilst Taysir Batniji brilliantly takes inspiration from the Bechers’ water towers with a series of watchtowers on the West Bank. Taysir Batniji

In Resisting artists undermine the authority of the photograph. Joana Hadjithomas and Khalili Joreige present images from the burned negatives of an imagined photographer.Joana Hadjithomas & Khalili Joreige

The best come right at the very end with a series of three photographs from the wonderful Nerdine Hammam. Taken from the series Uphekkh (2011) Egyptian soldiers are found transported in to idyllic landscapes – perhaps places they imagine or would prefer to be. Brilliant.Nerdine Hammam

Ultimately this exhibition is not depressing, as one might have imagined, but is inspirational and uplifting. Photography – and art – is a power for optimism, hope and good. Perhaps some Western artists can be inspired to produce work that is more meaningful and interesting? I hope so.Nerdine Hammam

Light From the Middle East: New Photography is at the V&A until 7 April 2013. Free entry.

Nerdine Hammam

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