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Oum el Dounia


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Beginning in the 1840s, shortly after the invention of the daguerreotype and calotype processes, photographers traveled to the Middle East to take advantage of the abundant light necessary for long exposures and to capture the “Holy Land.” Egypt was an especially popular destination for its ancient monuments and vast deserts. Photographing in the desert became an adventure of space and light, and the results provided the first glimpses of this landscape for much of the general public.

I spent time near the Bahariya Oasis in Egypt’s western desert, travelling by jeep with friends, picnicking, and camping beneath the stars. In thinking about how to represent my experience of the desert, I looked to fairy tales such as Alice in Wonderland and The Little Mermaid, old picture postcards, and my own archive. The resulting collage is a dreamlike journey, turning the stereotypical image of the desert upside down.

—Lara Baladi



We are excited to reopen the Freer in October 2017, following a renovation to allow us to better present our art and serve our visitors. The Sackler remains open, with a full lineup of exhibitions and events both in the museum and around DC. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.