The Orient in a Mirror

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9780810948440: The Orient in a Mirror
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Inspired by a series of journeys to the Middle East and Asia, photographers Roland and Sabrina Michaud offer striking testimony to the endurance of Islamic cultures with The Orient in a Mirror. Using the mirror as their motif, the Michauds pair traditional Islamic art miniatures, some of which date back eight centuries, with their own photographs of the Middle East taken over a period of nearly 50 years, beautifully evoking a lasting civilization rooted in faith and tradition.

People and landscapes, souks and bazaars, beggars and children: one is struck by the unchanged character of the faces, the lives, and the land, hundreds of years apart. A photograph of a barber performing a "bleeding" in Morocco in 1958, for example, faces a painted miniature of virtually the same scene, created in Iraq in 1240. Through their pairings, the photographers provoke a fascinating interplay between past and present, art and reality. Furthering the timeless feel of the photographs and the miniatures are extracts from the Koran and The Thousand and One Nights, as well as beautiful examples of Arab calligraphy.

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About the Author:

Roland and Sabrina Michaud are photographers who have specialized in Central, Southeast, and Far East Asia for more than 40 years. They have published many works on the life and culture of these regions, including Caravans to Tartary, India of 1,001 Nights, India in a Mirror, The Great Wall of China, and Abrams' Afghanistan: The Land That Was.

From Publishers Weekly:

In their latest volume of Middle Eastern photography, the Michauds use a "mirror" technique to emphasize the continuity of cultural traditions in the Islamic world. On one side of each two-page spread, they place an image taken from an ancient Islamic miniature painting, some of which date back eight centuries. On the other page of the spread, they show a photograph that was taken sometime during the past 50 years. This juxtaposition of ancient and modern is clearly meant to highlight how little the Islamic world has changed in the intervening years—a proposition that may irritate readers who disagree with such Orientalist ideas. But the parallels between the images are nonetheless arresting. Sweeping city shots are nearly identical to their ancient counterparts; laborers, women, children and beggars wear dreamy expressions similar to those recorded centuries before. One of the most beautiful spreads shows two scenes of a man in turban petting a falcon. A few of the pairings are harder to connect, and readers may get frustrated by the need to flip to the book’s index to learn their significance, since the images themselves are presented without dates or commentary. Partly imaginative, partly explicit, this book nurtures a dialogue between the art of the past and the life of the present.
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