Egypt immediately conjures images of the pyramids, the temples and the Sphinx in the desert. Early photographs of Egypt took these ancient monuments as their primary subjects, and these have remained hugely influential in constructing our view of the country.
But while the photography of Egypt and its monuments by foreigners has been well-documented, until now comparatively little has been known about the early days of photography among Egyptians themselves. Photography and Egypt redresses the balance: as well as considering images taken by early explorers, for the first time Maria Golia presents a wide range of photography made by Egyptians, of Egyptians, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day.
The author examines how photography was employed for propaganda purposes, including depictions of celebrated soldiers, workers and farmers; and how studio-based photography was used to portray the growing Egyptian middle class. Today’s young photographic artists, Golia reveals, use the medium to celebrate everyday life and to indict political and social conditions, with photography bearing witness to history - as well as helping to shape it.
Illustrated with a rich, sometimes surprising variety of images, many published for the first time in the West, Photography and Egypt is the first book to relate the story of Egypt’s rapport with photography in one concise and highly readable account.
‘Maria Golia’s relaxed prose belies her careful research on the subject of foreign and Egyptian enthusiasts of this most suspiciously regarded of visual arts . . . While Golia’s observations on the role of photography “as a midwife for the birth of mass tourism” are acute, more striking is her exploration of how Egyptians embraced the “ficitionalization” of their country . . . Golia ends with the hope that the book’s images will suggest the value of honouring a photographic legacy “integral to Egypt’s self-understanding.”’ – TLS
‘Golia is a terrific writer, and she brings to Photography and Egypt the same easygoing prose that made her earlier book, Cairo: City of Sand, such a pleasure to read . . . Golia’s intense and unyielding affection for the place . . . is balanced by wry humor and an occasionally brutal critique of the censorious nature of the current regime, the paranoia of life under emergency law, and the lethargy perpetuated by a swollen and ineffectual state bureaucracy.’ – Bidoun
‘Author and long-term resident, Maria Golia, conjures the real Egypt to life before the reader, and unfolds the development of a vernacular photography, from topography, middle class posturing and propaganda, to political and social activism and bearing witness to contemporary events.’ – F22 Magazine
‘An admirable and precise historical analysis and critique of the conditions under which photographs were produced in Egypt, as well as an assessment of their impact on the region.’ – Catherine David, chief curator, Musées de France
A long-time resident of Cairo, Maria Golia has published fiction and nonfiction including Cairo: City of Sand (Reaktion Books, 2004).