When photos became art: London show honors Victorian pioneers

Prince William’s wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, selected and commented on some photos in the new exhibition following royal tradition. (AFP)
Updated 01 March 2018
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When photos became art: London show honors Victorian pioneers

LONDON: From Alice teetering on the edge of Wonderland to Charles Darwin mumbling into his beard, London’s National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting a rare selection of works by four pioneering Victorian photographers.
Lewis Carroll was not only a mathematician and children’s author but also a ground-breaking photographer.
The “Victorian Giants” show displays some of the photographs he took of young Alice Liddell, the muse behind his fantastical novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” along with her brothers and sister.
Carroll was friends with three other Victorian “giants,” who inspired each other to push the boundaries of the latest art form to produce sublime portraits.
Mysterious Swede Oscar Rejlander acted as mentor to the group, which also included high-society ladies Julia Cameron and Clementina Hawarden.
The exhibition brings together the four artists for the first time, with some photographs never seen before by the public.
Curator Phillip Prodger said the photographs’ distinctive style represented “the birth of the art of photography.”
The photographs explore a broad range of subjects.
Children — symbols of purity and innocence at the time — and celebrated beauties such as Julia Jackson, mother of writer Virginia Woolf, mingle with noted men of the age, including father of evolution Charles Darwin.
Darwin even brought the developing art to bear on science, commissioning Rejlander to produce a series of self-portraits for a book he was preparing on the emotions of humans and animals.
“When people think of Victorian photography, they sometimes think of stiff, fusty portraits of women in crinoline dresses, and men in bowler hats,” said Prodger, head of the museum’s photography department.
“But ‘Victorian Giants’ is anything but.”
The quartet “forever changed thinking about photography and its expressive power,” he added.
The great photographers of the Victorian era were the first to explore the psychological depth of their subjects, Prodger explained.
“Here visitors can see the birth of psychological expressiveness.”
Photography was an art-form highly prized by Queen Victoria and her husband Albert.
The royal tradition continues, with Prince William’s wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, selecting and commenting on some photos in the new exhibition.
She visited the exhibition on Wednesday, the day before it opened to the public. It will run until May 20.


Winners of prestigious photography award announced at Riyadh forum

Colors of Arabia held an event to honor artists in Riyadh. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 14 December 2018
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Winners of prestigious photography award announced at Riyadh forum

  • Colors of Arabia forum held under the patronage of SCTH President Prince Sultan bin Salman

RIYADH; The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has announced the winners of the Prince Sultan Bin Salman Photography Award in four categories.
Winners of the prestigious award, which was launched to recognize budding talent and efforts to highlight the Kingdom’s heritage, received SR300,000 each and shields at a ceremony held at the Colors of Arabia forum under the patronage of Prince Sultan bin Salman, SCTH president.
The forum, which is being held at Riyadh’s International Convention and Exhibition Center, spans 15,000 square meters and is expected to have attracted 30,000 visitors by the time it ends on Sunday.
The award for the “pioneers” category, which recognizes the work of Saudis who have successfully contributed to the development of local artists, was won by a photographer in Hafr Al-Batin who began capturing day-to-day life in the Eastern Province city at only 12 years of age. The work of Jarallah Al-Hamad is now used in government brochures.
The award in the “literature and publications” category, which was open to contenders of any nationality both within and outside the Kingdom, recognizes photographers who have captured shots for publications and the film industry. Amin Al-Qusayran, a photographer and graphic designer from Madinah who began pursuing his passion 15 years ago, had previously won two awards in recognition of his work. Al-Qusayran is also author of a pictorial book shedding light on the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
The “civilized heritage” category, meanwhile, was open to photographers from around the globe seeking to preserve world heritage through the power of image.
The award for this category was jointly won by two photographers of Arab descent. Mohamed Bouhsen, from Bahrain, had left university to document national heritage in his country and the Arabian Peninsula at large. He won the award alongside Jalal Al-Masri, an Egyptian photographer who has taken part in 133 local, Arab and international exhibitions.
The STCH also announced the winners of the photo and short film awards in seven categories.
Mazen Flamban, who won the award in the “cultural heritage” category, expressed his surprise and joy at having had his work recognized.
“My ambition is to revive Hijazi heritage through my lens,” Flamban told Arab News. “This was the first year I joined the competition. My photo depicts an old woman who lives alone as she reminisces over old photos.”