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A treasure trove of images from Lebanon and the region
The Arab Image Foundation (AIF) is a non-profit organisation established in Beirut in 1997 to preserve and study photographs from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora.
The Gemmayzeh-based Foundation currently has 40,000 images in its database, many of which are online and the entire collection, many of them donations, currently amounts to 600,000 photographs. Efforts to make more of these available are ongoing. It’s an absolute must-stop for all photography, history and visual culture buffs.
According to director Rima Mokaiesh, images are primarily used in artistic projects and in academic/scholarly research. But they are also licensed for editorial use, publications and films, and borrowed by curators for exhibitions. AIF’s collection has served as an inspiration or trigger for several artistic projects, notably Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas' documentary The Lebanese Rocket Society and artist and AIF co-founder Akram Zaatari’s Time Capsule and also Twenty-Eight Nights and A Poem.
Out of the images in the database, about half come from Lebanon. Other well-represented countries include Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Palestine. There are images from most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as countries with a strong Arab diaspora.
Since inception, the AIF has produced 15 exhibitions and 8 publications and was awarded the UNESCO-Sharjah prize for Arab culture in 2014.
The AIF has furthermore been a guest exhibitor at Paris Photo in 2009 and les Rencontres d'Arles in 2013 and will be featured extensively in an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (MACBA) in 2016.
The AIF has a public space and research center open to the public daily (Mon-Fri from 1pm to 5pm) and opens on the first Saturday of the month. It also accommodates school and university groups for visits and Q&As.