Throughout History, Egypt has always been (and still is) high on the mythology scale. A constant source of inspiration for architects, writers, philosophers and artists, Egypt truly became tangible when the first photographers brought back images to the Western hemisphere around mid-19th Century.
For three weeks in November, Galerie Gerard Levy showcases 20+ of those now classic images, taken by the most famous pioneers between 1850 and 1859, with one goal: sharing how their talent shaped our contemporary eyes and minds about Ancient Egypt’s representation.
We start with Maxime Du Camp (1822-1894), the most descriptive artist, using the waxed-paper process he learned from Le Gray. His desire to be a “truth teller”, bringing sheer evidence of facts, became the reason behind the massive success of the first book of photography ever published in 1852 by Blanquart-Evrard (Égypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie. Dessins photographiques recueillis pendant les années 1849, 1850 et 1851).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the young John Beasley Greene (1832-1856) wanted to bring his unique poetic touch to reality. While using the same technique as Du Camp, his eyes reveal a fantasized Egypt. Greene’s landscapes seem to shimmer above the page almost to the point of evaporating, like distant desert mirages. On the other hand, if one looks at the minutiae of his focus on archeological details, he was a trailblazer with frames that could have easily inspired the most modern architects.
The now very rare pictures were a journey of a lifetime for this twenty-four-year old talented young man wo passed away less than two years after the printing of his extraordinary photographs by Blanquart-Evrard in 1854. (Le Nil : monuments, paysages, explorations photographiques, Blanquart-Évrard, 1854.).
James Robertson (1813-1888) and Felix (Felice) Beato (1832-1909), world travelers and brothers in law, had a very simple goal when taking photographs: doing business. Between 1857 and 1859 they comprehensively documented famous Egyptian sites for the benefit of tourists, officials and historians alike. Their realistic photographic style and systematic -almost industrial- approach to creating a reference for all publics, was an example followed by later photographers of the Middle East in the late 1870’s.
The selection of those genial artists exhibited in Galerie Gerard Levy from November 5th-28th, is centered around the presentation of displaying three different ways of the same landscapes. These variety of shots is proof of how Photography challenged and disrupted all others Art forms.
Some of those incredible vintage photos are also very carefully preserved in the Musée d’Orsay, the French National Library, the Metropolitan Museum or the Getty collection.