Van Leo: Master of Light and Shadows
One can easily argue that Van Leo was one of the best portrait photographers that Egypt ever produced. He had a rare ability to take control of his subjects and mold them in ways no other photographer could, similar to a sculptor handling clay. For him, image composition consisted mainly of manipulating the light and shadows. Whether he was shooting a wedding or a self-portrait, what distinguished his images was how and where he focused the lighting. The following exhibition contains rare images from my personal archive and the collections of Barry Iverson, Josef Polleross, Patrick Godeau and the American University in Cairo. Both Polleross and Iverson contributed photo essays, and Iverson wrote the accompanying text.
Egypt’s Stella Beer: Celebrating 120 Years
On May 15 1897, Belgian investors opened Crown Brewery, Egypt’s first brewery, in the Ibrahimieh district of Alexandria. Up until then Egypt’s growing expatriate community had depended on imported beer to quench their thirst. A year later the same investors opened a second brewery on the outskirts of Cairo called Société Anonyme Brasserie des Pyramides (Pyramid Brewery). The following exhibition features historical photographs and memorabilia from my personal collection. The accompanying text is written by Omar Foda author of the upcoming book Grand Plans in Glass Bottles: A Social, Economic and Technological History of Beer in Egypt 1880-1970. Omar’s grandfather, Ismail Umar Foda, was director of ABC from 1963 to 1985.
Homs: A Hidden Treasure Now in Ruins
Homs is Syria’s third largest city, but because it didn’t have spectacular tourist attractions it was largely unknown to the outside world. Unfortunately, Homs was caught up very early on in the Syrian Civil War which started in 2011 and, in no time, the city became a ruin and its residents were forced to flee. This photographic exhibition features images of Homs from the 20th century. I also have included a selection of photographs that I took of the city in 2005 while working on an economic report on Syria.
The Virgin’s Tree in Egypt: A Story of Survival
In 2013 a rumor spread that the Virgin’s Tree in Matariya, a suburb of Cairo, had been cut down by thugs seeking revenge for the Copts’ support of Abdel-Fattah el Sisi’s new government. The Coptic Church immediately denied the rumor and issued a statement saying that the tree had blown down during strong winds. The following story and photo exhibition looks at the troubled history of this sacred tree.
Studio el Karawan: Deir ez Zor’s Forgotten Faces
The exhibition features 22 rare hand-colored studio portraits by Armenian photographer Karawan. Patrick Godeau discovered the collection when he visited Deir Ez Zor in 2003, and acquired the photos from the late photographer’s family which, at the time, still ran the studio.
Palestine’s Nativity Trail: A Journey Through History
The Nativity Trail is one of the most famous of the bible’s epic journeys. In the year 2000, it became part of a larger initiative to renovate Christian sites in the Holy Land for the millennium. Shortly after it was inaugurated, the trail became inaccessible due to the Second Intifada or Palestinian uprising which exploded in 2002. Since 2008, a steady stream of pilgrims, hikers, and visitors who are curious and bold enough to discover an alternative Palestine have taken renewed interest in the journey, which takes travelers through lands and scenery that to this day evoke tales and narratives symbolic to so many across the world.
Distillerie ZOTTOS: A Greek Family Affair
This collection of photographs taken by Studio Ververis, in Alexandria, Egypt showcases the family owned Zottos distillery in the 1930s. Greeks were instrumental in the motorization of Egypt during the 160-year rule of the Mohammed Ali Dynasty.
Palmyra: A City Rising Above the Mist
This collection of nineteenth and twentieth century photographs looks at the ancient city of Palmyra, or Tadmur, once an integral part of the Silk Road. Today, ISIS controls Palmyra, and the fate of this historic site is at stake. The group has so far destroyed the Temple of Baal, Temple of Baal Shaman, the Arch of Triumph and most recently three ancient tower tombs.
Paradise Lost: A Glimpse of Aleppo in the 20th Century
This photographic exhibition looks at Syria’s second city, Aleppo, from the late 19th century to the 1960s. Much of Aleppo’s old city and covered bazaar have since been destroyed in Syria’s protracted civil war.
Farouk and Narriman: Egypt’s Last Royal Romance
This collection of photographs shows King Farouk’s last royal romance with Queen Narriman during his last year in power before the July 23, 1952, revolution that ended monarchy in Egypt. This exhibition, which came from my personal archives, was meant to mark the revolt’s 60th anniversary.
Weinberg and Pferschy: A Tale of Two Photographers
In the early 1990s I came across a small collection of five signed prints by a photographer named Othmar Pferschy. At the time, there was no information available about the photographer, so I just put the prints in a box and forgot about them. Two decades later, while moving to the United States, I rediscovered Pherschy’s photographs buried in my archives. This exhibition shows Pferschy’s works and tells his fascinating story. It also features the work of his mentor, the Romanian Jew Jean Weinberg.