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Imagination, Memory and Digitized Studio Aesthetics in Contemporary Syria

image of Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication

Based on research I conducted in 2005–2006 and in 2009, I examine in this article the production and use of digital photographic studio portraiture in Damascus. Following the material turn in the study of photography, I focus not only the content and look of digital portraits, but also their materialities, spatial dispositions and their uses once they leave the space of the studio. First, I explore the visual language of Damascene digital portraiture, paying particular attention to the capabilities of digital photography to produce new forms of embodiment, religiosity and social connection for the portrait subject. In the second half of the article, I track studio portraits into the shop spaces of Damascus’ marketplaces, where they are hung on walls or displayed on desks, most frequently as memorials to deceased patriarchs. I suggest that these memorial portraits work as evidentiary information about the shop and also produce affective and actionable memories for merchant and customers alike.

Affiliations: 1: Mississippi State University, Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, USA


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