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The Eye of the Shah: Qajar Court Photography and the Persian Past

The Eye of the Shah: Qajar Court Photography and the Persian Past
  • edited by: Jennifer Y. Chi
  • contributors: Carmen Pérez González, Judith A. Lerner, Reza Sheikh
  • 2015
  • Princeton University Press
  • ISBN: 9780691171586

The Eye of the Shah is the beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition of the same name at New York University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. The volume presents some two hundred photographs—the great majority of which have never been seen by the public—taken by royal photographers engaged by Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 1848–1896), the longest-reigning shah of Iran's Qajar Dynasty (1785–1925). The photographs include a group of unprecedented, captivating images of life in the royal court in Tehran. These are complemented by photographs of historic monuments that capture the grand, eloquent beauty of such iconic ancient sites as Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam. The Eye of the Shah also looks at vintage photographic albums, memorabilia that used formal portraits of the shah, and works by two modern Iranian photographers, Bahman Jalali (1944–2010) and Shadi Ghadirian (b. 1974). 

The catalogue's essays discuss such topics as the achievements of court photographers in the service of Naser al-Din Shah, including Reza ‘Akkasbashi, ‘Abdollah Mirza Qajar, and Dust Mohammad Khan Mo‘ayyer al-Mamalek, and the volume also examines the role of photography in helping Iranians document Iran's pre-Islamic monuments during the second half of the nineteenth century.

The Eye of the Shah, Photograph © Bruce M. White, 2016