Photo exhibit opens at Oriental Institute

By Katrina Paleski

“The Angle of Repose: Four American Photographers in Egypt,” a collection of contemporary photographs, will be on display at the Oriental Institute Museum from October 23 to January 27. The exhibit, on loan from the permanent collection of the LaSalle Bank of Chicago, includes the work of Linda Conner, Lynn Davis, Tom Van Eynde, and Richard Misrach.

“Photography has always played an important role in our scholarly work, and it is a fascinating contrast to see Egypt though the lens of an artist rather than from the viewpoint of an archeologist,” said Gene Gragg, director of the Oriental Institute.

The exhibit features only a small portion of the LaSalle Bank Photography Collection. The collection, founded in 1967, is one of the oldest corporate-sponsored collections of photography in the U.S. The base collection, which currently consists of over 4000 photographs, is displayed on rotation at the LaSalle Bank headquarters in Chicago, which is open to employees and to the public.

In 1993 the Photography Collection began a special-focus program to locate photographs that depicted 19th- and 20th-century portrayals of Egypt. The photographs on display at the Oriental Institute are part of the collected works from this program.

“For years, the bank has been interested in and supported the work of the Oriental Institute,” said Thomas C. Heagy, chief financial officer, ABN AMRO North America, and vice chairman of the LaSalle Bank. “Our collaboration allows a greater number of people to see this extraordinary collection.”

The 25 photographs in the exhibit, taken between 1986 and 1997, depict scenes from Egyptian archeological sites, and explore the contrast between ancient and modern landscapes. The four photographers are all Americans that have worked in Egypt over the last 20 years. Each has a unique style that conveys a sense of fascination with the physical landscape, as well as the architecture and artwork of ancient Egypt.

Tom Van Eynde, one of the featured photographers, was part of the Oriental Institute’s Epigraphic Survey based in Luxor from 1987—1993. Initiated by the founder of the Institute, James Henry Breasted, the epigraphic survey consists of a select group that works to record the ancient inscriptions found at archeological sites. Van Eynde’s photographs reveal technical representation of the inscriptions and monuments, with the camera always at a close distance from the subject being photographed.

The exhibit also features his panoramic photographs, which use a long negative and present a clear contrast to his work from the epigraphic survey. His photographs of Luxor, the modern name for the ancient city of Thebes, comprise his Thebes Photographic Project, a combination of his role as field photographer and his personal desire to depict the ancient city in its modern state. Selections from the project are featured on the Oriental Institute’s Web site, which features different selections of photographs in a bimonthly rotation.

The photographs of Lynn Davis use a two-inch-square negative that is enlarged to produce a large final print. The large size of the finished photographs reflects the monumental size of the Egyptian pyramids and architecture that are depicted. Linda Connor uses a large format view camera, similar to those used by early photographers, which results in an 8-by-10 inch print with a reddish tint. Her photographs have a focus on the spiritual link between the modern viewer and the ancient world.

Richard Misrach, a photographer known for his depiction of the Western American landscape, also is featured in the exhibit. His photographs use color film and illustrate the contrast between modern cities and the ancient architecture of Egypt.

The opening of this exhibit marks the inauguration of the Holleb Family Temporary Exhibits Gallery, which has part of the ongoing renovation of the museum. The Holleb Family Gallery will now be open along with the Egyptian and Persian galleries for normal museum hours. The Oriental Institute Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. through 4 p.m., and is open late on Wednesdays, until 8:30 p.m.