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.


Traveling back thousands of years by reviving KSA's Al-Ula

Archaeological treasures in the northwestern region of the Kingdom are older than Saudi Arabia itself, and barely known to the world. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Traveling back thousands of years by reviving KSA's Al-Ula

  • The RCU is joining forces with the Arab World Institute in Paris to produce a touring exhibition

JEDDAH: Bathing in the scorching sun of Saudi Arabia for the past 4,000 years and sitting among the sandy dunes of the northwestern region of the Kingdom, lie the country’s archaeological treasures. These treasures are even older than Saudi Arabia itself, and barely known to the world.
The area covers about 52 hectares of well-preserved land in which there are tombs handcrafted out of the rocks, relics from ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and the Romans, archaeological riches dating back 4,000 years and other priceless artifacts from the Ottoman Empire.
The somewhat forgotten land is going to be brought into the spotlight by the year 2020 as a historic collaboration takes place between Saudi Arabia and France.
France excels in the art of preserving history so it is the perfect alliance to meet the goals of making Al-Ula a tourist attraction.
Saudis are cooperating with France in preserving and promoting culture and archaeology.
The French consider this project so prestigious that Gerard Mestrallet, a special envoy of the president, has been appointed for Al-Ula. Both countries share a common approach to national heritage; that culture transcends all borders and should be accessible to all who seek to observe history.
The agreement was signed in the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron as well as Al-Ula governor, the special envoy to Al-Ula and France’s foreign minister. Against the walls of Paris’s Musee De Arts Decoratifs — a wing of the Louvre Palace — sit the illuminated sandstones for the French to experience a sliver of Saudi Arabia’s rich heritage. The Royal Commission of Al-Ula (RCU) has signed an agreement with Campus France, described as the leading international academic and vocational public institution in France, to train young Saudi women and men to become aspiring archaeologists.
The RCU is joining forces with the Arab World Institute in Paris to produce a touring exhibition. Public transport, hotels and restaurants are also part of the plan.
More than 2,100 people applied for traineeships: 200 young Saudi men and women will be trained by the most prestigious institutes in the world; part of the 1.2 million new tourist jobs are expected to be created under Vision 2030.
Cutting-edge technologies and methods such as aerial LiDAR (light detection and ranging), scanning and photos taken from light aircraft, helicopter and drones will also be used.