Customer success: Lost archive of Lebanese and Arab photographs

    When Diab Alkarssifi, a former photojournalist from Lebanon, immigrated to the UK in 1993 he brought with him a collection of 27,000 photographic prints and negatives covering over 100 years of political and cultural history of the Middle East (c.1889 – 1993).

    It was hidden for 17 years until 2010, when he brought it to the Creative Space programme at Arlington, while he was resident and which Ania Dabrowska was running as part of the SPACE Studios / Arlington residency. The idea of Lebanese Archive project was born out of this engagement process.

    They conceived a project through which Alkarssifi’s collection might be preserved, re-presented, made accessible to the public and become a catalyst for consideration of archives in contemporary context.  The collection consists of his work, family albums, and photographs from studios in Beirut, Damascus and Cairo and covers over 100 years of cultural and political history of Lebanon and the Middle East. It documents his student years in Moscow and Budapest, the Lebanese Civil Wars and local events in his home city of Baalbeck, close to the Syrian border.

    This unique collection offers an insight into daily family and professional life, cultural celebrations and political moments at a time in Lebanon’s recent history when many archives have been destroyed or lost in repeated conflicts and civil wars. Alkarssifi came to London in 1993, bringing part of this archive with him.

    The project includes an artist’s book, exhibitions, an archive to be established as part of the Arab Image Foundation Collection in Beirut and a public engagementprogramme documented on a project website (http://lebanesearchive.co.uk/).

    The project launched with Ania Dabrowska: Conversations About Archive at the Four Corners Gallery, London (Sept 2013).  A final project exhibition will tour Beirut, London and Warsaw in 2015.  The book was funded by kickstarter and has only just recently been published by Book Works.