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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Three Views of Oman at Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery

Image above: ©Edward Grazda, Corniche, Muttrah,  2005. Courtesy Edward Grazda and the Institute for American Values.

Collected here for the first time is a history of Oman in images. One of the most developed and stable countries in the Arab world and among the earliest adherents to Ibadi Islam, the sultanate sits along the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula. From early days of world trade through the port of Muscat to contemporary engagement with international diplomacy and the West, Oman has always evoked beauty and mystery in equal measure. The exhibition Three Views of Oman reveals the country as its contours have emerged over the past seventy years in an intimate portrait through the eyes of the West, as captured in images by English explorer Wilfred Thesiger in the 1940s, British Army Major Charles Butt in the 1970s, and award-winning American documentary photographer Edward Grazda in the first decade of this century.

12ThreeViewsofOmanAt Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, on the left Raina Sacks Blankenhorn, curator of Three Views of Oman, and on the right Elizabeth O'Donnell, Acting Dean, Professor, Proportional-Time Faculty. 

The exhibition chronicles the rapid social and physical changes in Oman, as well as the changing nature of photography itself over 60 years. These original photographs have traveled to Oxford and London, England; Grenada, Spain and other destinations; this will be the only presentation of the exhibition in New York City.

Wilfred Thesiger (1910-1993), world-renowned explorer and traveller, was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (then Abyssinia). He lived in Oman from 1945 thru 1949, taking photographs as a member of the Middle East Anti-Locust Unit. Travelling by camel with Bedouin companions, he crossed the Empty Quarter (twice). Thesiger is known for his photographs, and his celebrated book Arabian Sands (1959).

Thesiger 01© Wilfred Thesiger, People at Tawi Harian well, Ramlat al-Wahiba, 1949. Courtesy the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.

Charles Butt (1935-2006) was born in Surrey, England. After over a decade of field service for the Intelligence Corps of the British Armed Forces, Butt was accepted into the Sultan of Oman’s armed forces in 1966. A keen amateur photographer, Butt documented his time in Oman from 1966-1978. The Charles Butt Archive is held by the Middle East Centre Archive, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.

Butt 01©Charles Butt, Main gate, Muttrah, 1967. Courtesy the Middle East Centre Archive, St. Anthony’s College, Oxford. 

Edward Grazda (1947- ) was born in New York City. Grazda has travelled the world as a documentary photographer. His photographs have appeared in many publications and are part of important private and public collections. In 2005, Grazda was commissioned to produce a portrait of daily life in Oman by the Institute for American Values and The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman.

Grazda 02©Edward Grazda, Shopping mall, Ibri, 2005. Courtesy Edward Grazda and the Institute for American Values.

 

 

“Three Views of Oman is a great example of the dialogue of cultures. Rather than repeating the Orientalist approach that has weakened so many Western studies of Arabic societies, this exhibition builds a new bridge between two civilizations with different histories but shared values.”

- Radwan Ziadeh, George Washington University.

 

15ThreeViewsofOman-2At Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery on the opening night. 

 

For more information on this body of work, please see www.threeviewsofoman.com.

All Opening Images by Kamilla Ortiz

 

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