Through the Lens

Latif Al Ani's Visions of Ancient Iraq

monochrome photograph of Latif al Ani with with text "Through the Lens"

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November 8, 2023–February 25, 2024

Featuring fifty evocative photographs by Latif Al Ani (1932–2021), a pioneer of Iraqi photography, the exhibition invites viewers to follow his unique perspective of Iraq’s golden age of modernism (1958–1980), which was driven by the oil industry. Al Ani’s photographs include some of the first aerial perspectives of both modern and ancient cities in Iraq, and document European visitors’ fascination with the monuments of Mesopotamia. His gaze reveals the appropriation and reimagining of Iraq’s past through photographs of sites excavated and interpreted by Western archaeologists in the 1850s, which can be seen in the lithographs and engravings documenting the early British excavations of Nineveh and Nimrud featured in this exhibition.

Al Ani’s photographs also provide a lens into the present through the subsequent responses to Iraq’s history and more recent events, which are spotlighted in the exhibition via the personal stories of five contemporary Iraqi artists—Adel Abidin, Nadine Hattom, Hanaa Malallah, Mahmoud Obaidi, and Walid Siti. Their firsthand experiences are shared through multi-media artworks, some of which were specially commissioned for the exhibition or presented in novel installations. Ultimately, Through the Lens reflects on the themes of colonialism, reclamation, memory, loss, and heritage, to reveal the complex reality of communal identity—one that is the sum of all the filters through which the past is shared.