Through the Lens: Latif Al Ani’s Visions of Ancient Iraq presents the work of Latif Al Ani (1932-2021), the founding father of Iraqi photography. A pioneer in documenting and envisioning Iraq's golden age (1958-1980), a period of increased cosmopolitanism and industrialization, Al Ani was also the first to shoot aerial views of the country’s archaeological sites. His images capture the ancient past; immortalize Iraq's modernization driven by oil exploitation; and inspire contemporary Iraqi artists.

Presented by New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (15 E. 84th St., New York, N.Y.), the exhibition will open on Wednesday, Nov. 8 and continue until Feb. 5. Admission is free and open to the public. Free guided tours are offered Fridays at 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 11:00 a.m.

Private tours are available to members of the media by contacting the Institute at 212.992.7800, or emailing the NYU Public Affairs Office via robert.polner@nyu.edu

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Latif Al Ani. Samarra, the spiral minaret of the Great Mosque. Gelatin silver negative on cellulose acetate film (6 x 6 cm). 1960. Arab Image Foundation: 0190an00115. © Latif el Ani Collection. Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation, Beirut.

With its selection of 50 thought-provoking images, 1850’s archival lithographs and engravings, and contemporary multimedia artworks, ISAW’s exhibition confronts the cultural and political extortion of Iraq’s past as seen through the eyes of nineteenth-century archaeologists, twentieth-century photographers, and contemporary artists who experienced it firsthand. In this endeavor, Latif Al Ani’s story and images serve as the focal point: they are the lens through which viewers conceptualize and understand how archaeologists and artists have reckoned with the past, and as a window to the present, where Adel Abidin, Nadine Hattom, Hanaa Malallah, Mahmoud Obaidi, and Walid Siti reevaluate their heritage and recuperate the stories of those who, before them, contributed to the recording and codification of such past.

Through the Lens highlights three distinct, yet connected, historical moments: the early British discoveries at Babylon and Nimrud and the consequent Western appropriation of Iraqi antiquity; the 1960’s reformulation of Iraq’s history as part of a larger cultural propaganda; and the contemporary response to more recent events that have influenced the relation between visual art, history, politics, and identity. This multifaceted relationship brings to the front issues of reclamations, cultural propaganda; and the contemporary response to more recent events that have influenced the relation between visual art, history, politics, and identity.

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Latif Al Ani. Ctesiphon, ruins of the Tāq Kasrā (Arch of Ctesiphon) with musician playing the rebab. Gelatin silver negative on cellulose acetate film (6 x 6 cm). ca. 1964. Arab Image Foundation:0190an00560. © Latif el Ani Collection. Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation, Beirut.

This multifaceted relationship brings to the front issues of reclamations, cultural decolonization, memory and loss, and heritage. Ultimately, the exhibition moves from personal stories and pasts to reveal the complex reality of communal identity, an identity that is the sum of all the filters through which the past is shared.

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Latif Al Ani. Baghdad, Jewad Selim’s Freedom Monument at Tahrir Square, Gelatin silver negative on cellulose acetate film (6 x 6 cm). 1961. Arab Image Foundation: 0190an00044. © Latif el Ani Collection. Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation, Beirut.

Curated by Pedro Azara, Professor of aesthetics at the Barcelona School of Architecture, Through the Lens is the first major show of Al Ani’s work in New York and proudly presents new commissions specifically created for ISAW. The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly, fully illustrated catalogue featuring scholarly essays by five international specialist contributors and five essays by thecontemporary artists that provide intellectual context for their artworks.

Through the Lens: Latif Al Ani's visions of Ancient Iraq is organized by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World has been made possible This exhibition and its accompanying catalogue were made possible by generous support from the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust and the Leon Levy Foundation. Additional funding provided by Joyce F. Menschel and Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Tucker.

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Portrait of Latif Al Ani. Print (12.5 x 10.3 cm). 1956. Arab Image Foundation: 0190an00536. © Latif el Ani Collection. Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation, Beirut.