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Light from the Middle East at Victoria & Albert Museum

[1]A new exhibition at London’s V&A offers insights from within cultures that are more often photographed and reported from the outside

Does it matter who takes a photograph? The camera is a machine, after all. The identity of a finger pressing a button to release a shutter is surely irrelevant.

But that of course is to make assumptions about photography that no one believes any more. If you think it doesn’t matter who takes a picture, you probably also think the camera never lies.

Light from the Middle East, a new photography exhibition at the V&A (it’s ticketless and free), implies in its title a fresh perspective on a much-imaged part of the world. Western photojournalists may claim to cast light “on” the Middle East. The light here comes “from” there, in a survey of recent photography from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and other states in the region.

Mehraneh Atashi’s photograph Bodiless I puts the artist in the picture. It portrays a bare-chested bodybuilder working in a traditional wrestling gym (or zurkhaneh) in Tehran. Women are supposed to be forbidden from this male world, but Atashi captures herself in a mirror, pointing her camera up at the proud, muscular man.

The exhibition is full of insights from within cultures that are so often photographed and reported from the outside.┬áIssa Touma’s series of dynamic black and white pictures, called Sufis, gets very visually close to a religious procession in Syria. But the pictures are not just physically close: they are empathetic, in contrast with the hostile images of Islam that may be more familiar from western reporting.

Continue reading in The Guardian [2]