Exhibition | The Human Scale

Archeological Photographs from The Fouad Debbas Collection

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The Fouad Debbas Collection Gallery, Level 1

What the eye sees, photography attempts to reproduce. It responds to our common desire to tour the world “from the comfort of one’s armchair.” In the second half of the 19th century, photographic expeditions to Egypt multiplied, with a view to making an inventory of the Orient.

If sketches made in situ previously sufficed, photography came to be appreciated for its capacities to document, illustrate, and depict monuments and their decors with great precision. Photography thus became a precious tool for archeologists and scientists.

Often, the monumental quality of a site can only be grasped through the inclusion of a human figure. Man is there only to indicate scale, but he inhabits these images which otherwise would be lifeless and frozen in an ancient time, like the ruins we see.

Photographers frequently turn to the same assistants or travel companions to “populate” their expertly-composed stagings. The positioning of the human figures is rarely left to chance; they are either clearly visible, standing with their backs against columns, seated with their head in their hands, or nearly hidden, squatting next to a rock or springing out from the shadows. Sometimes, the photographer is himself the figure. Would you be able to recognize him?


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