Conflicted visions: Gabriel Lekegian and the Oriental imagination

Upcoming exhibition project, 2017

Tracing the life and work of the enigmatic Egyptian-Armenian photographer Gabriel Lekegian, ‘Conflicted Visions’ is an attempt to re-evaluated his place within the annals of late 19th century Middle Eastern and ‘Orientalist’ photography.

Although ‘Photographie Artistique G. Lekegian & Co.’ produced some of the best known images of Egypt between 1880s and 1900s, little is known about their creator. Moreover, no effort has been made to properly evaluate this complex body of work that depicts all aspects of Egyptian life during a period of cataclysmic cultural, social and political transformations. A highly successful operator who was enlisted as the official photographer to the British Army in Egypt in the 1890s, Lekegian was also an active participant in international exhibitions, such as the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Nevertheless, the man behind the camera remained in the shadows, preferring to leave his personal life unexposed.

Drawn entirely from Lusadaran’s collection, this is the first exhibition that will showcase the immense variety of Lekegian studio output through close to fifty vintage photographs from 1880s to 1920s. These works are divided into two major groups. The early production which was carried out by or under direct supervision from Lekegian between 1880s and 1900s is followed by photographs made in the first two decades of the 20th century when the studio was sold by Lekegian, but preserved his name. Although made by different photographers, these later images were strongly influenced by the overall stylistic and thematic approaches developed by Lekegian.

Ranging from typical Orientalist subject matter such as architectural ruins, ethnographic types to early forms of industrial and documentary photography these commercial photographs remain a fascinating, albeit conflicted record of an Eastern country on the path of modernisation.

Extensive research undertaken over a ten year period will throw much needed light on Lekegian’s prolific career and mysterious biography. An accompanying catalog will be published to coincide with the exhibition. Exhibition venues and dates will be released in 2017.

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