13 November 2012
Last updated at 01:05
Light from the Middle East: New Photography is a collaboration between the V&A and the British Museum. It is the first major exhibition of contemporary photography from and about the Middle East and features more than 90 works by artists from the region, spanning North Africa to Central Asia. Air Mail is one of two items from Jowhara AlSaud's Out of Line series (2008) in the exhibition. AlSaud's photographs have a distinctive visual style and explore the language of censorship and the malleability of photography.
Artist and designer Hassan Hajjaj has spent his life living in both London and Morocco, where he relocated in 1992, and calls his style "souk with a twist". Saida in Green (2000) is one of several works demonstrating his enthusiasm for merging Middle Eastern fashion with recognisable international brands. The exhibition hopes to help remedy the under-representation of Middle Eastern photography in UK collections. The collection has been put together thanks to substantial funding from the Art Fund.
The photographs on display show creative responses to the social challenges and political upheavals that have shaped the Middle East over the past 20 years. The region has seen collisions occur between personal, social, religious and political life. Wonder Beirut #13, Modern Beirut, International Centre of Water-Skiing is from the series Wonder Beirut by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. It is shown here courtesy of the artists and CRG Gallery, New York and In Situ / Fabienne Leclerc, Paris.
Mehraneh Atashi's photographic series aim to reveal lesser-known aspects of Iranian life, such as her Zourkhaneh Project (House of Strength, 2004). It captures the hidden world of the all-male Iranian gymnasium. For this work Atashi gained the confidence of gym members and, defying the tradition that women should be forbidden inside the zourkhaneh, used mirrors to insert her own image in a series of photographs, including Bodiless I seen here.
The exhibition will include several portraits from Newsha Tavakolian's series Mothers of Martyrs (2006), which features elderly mothers with framed pictures of their sons killed in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). Tavakolian is a self-taught artist who started her career as a junior photographer for the Iranian women's daily newspaper Zan-e Rooz at the age of 16. By 21 she had established herself as one of Tehran's few female photojournalists and began working internationally, focusing particularly on women's issues.
In 2006 Youssef Nabil photographed elders from the Yemeni community of South Shields. Nabil's photographs and films evoke the glamour and melodrama of the 1940s golden age of Egyptian cinema. Referring to old movie posters still common in Egypt in the 1970s, Nabil makes highly staged, gelatin-silver portraits which he then hand-colours. A set of 12, The Yemeni Sailors of South Shields, is on display as part of the exhibition.
For her 2011 series Uphekka, Nermine Hammam transported the Egyptian soldiers that she photographed during protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square to multicoloured fantasy settings - picture-postcard 'perfect' places far removed from the Arab Spring. Hammam studied film-making and founded Equinox Graphics, one of Egypt's leading graphic design agencies, before focusing on her artwork. The Break combines elements of painting and photography. Hammam often digitally manipulates and re-works images to represent subjects in states of abandonment or altered consciousness.
The exhibition features six photographs from Shadi Ghadirian's Qajar collection (1998), which recreates 19th century Iranian studio portraits, updating them with contemporary props. Ghadirian was among the first students to graduate in photography from the Azad University in Tehran. Her work addresses the concerns of Iranian women of her generation and explores ideas such as censorship, religion and modernity. Her photographs often reflect her own life experiences as a young woman, wife and working mother. The exhibition runs until 7 April 2013 at the V&A.