Muscat: The National Museum represented by the learning Centre, in collaboration with the French Embassy in the Sultanate of Oman, hosted the conference titled “Oman in Photography: A Scenographic Experience Through the Lens of Omani and French Photographers”.
The conference was attended by Her Excellency Veronique Aulagnon, Ambassador of France to the Sultanate of Oman, and a number of those interested in photography. Members of photographic societies, students and teachers, professionals and amateurs’ photographers, reputed and emerging visual artists attended the event.
For his part, Dr. Abdulmonam bin Mansour al-Hassani, the former Omani Minister of Information and founder of the Photo Society of the Sultan Qaboos University, at the beginning of the conference, he touched on the stages that photography went through in Oman from 1970 CE until today.
Al-Hassani dealt with the beginning of the features of the image story in the Sultanate of Oman in the sixties and seventies of the last century, and the emergence of some individual jurisprudence of a limited number of Omani photographers.
He also focused on the institutional beginning of photography in 1988 CE by establishing a mini-group for photography in the Cultural Club, where the photo exhibitions were - despite their fewness - a fascination with silent nature, people's lives, or Omani architecture with some attempts at renewal.
Dr. Abdulmonam al-Hassani indicated that the establishment of the photography group at Sultan Qaboos University was in an organized manner in 1990 CE, the establishment of the Omani Society for Fine Arts, and the establishment of the Photography Society in 2012 CE.
Al-Hassani highlighted the emergence of student institutions and the Stal Gallery team, in addition to some independent photographers who studied the art of photography and present their experiences in their own way, away from the institutional framework.
The conference included a discussion session in which a number of photographers from the Sultanate of Oman and the French Republic participated, namely: Dr. Genevieve Galliano, Chief Curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon, the French photographer Mr.Ferrante Ferranti, the photographer Mrs.Reem al-Shaikh, and the photographers Mr.Mahmoud al-Zadjali and Mrs.Israa Al-Balushi from the Stal Gallery.
During the discussion session, Dr. Genevieve Galliano, Chief Curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon, touched on the history, activities and departments of the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon, and explained the reasons of the Museum’s invitation to Mr. Ferrante Ferranti and the artistic purpose of this collaboration.
In preparation for the second phase of this collaboration, the French Embassy invited the French photographer Ferranti to photograph landscapes and archaeological sites in the Sultanate of Oman in order to define the context of the museum display of Omani artifacts to participate in the exhibition that will be launched by the National Museum at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon, starting in May 2023. Then in the National Museum in 2024 CE.
For his part, Ferranti evoked his work on the ruins and explained how he apprehends his commission in Oman, which strong ideas will emerge from the scenography on which he is working with Dr. Galliano, in addition to sharing his thoughts about capturing the essence of Oman and its translation, artistic and technical, into photography.
The Omani photographer, Reem al-Sheikh, specializing in abstract fine arts, shared the successive steps of her path, the drive behind her work that led her to the photographer she is today, and how her identity built her art and how it reflects into her bascule from figuration to abstraction.
For their part, photographers Mahmoud al-Zadjali and Israa Al-Balushi represented by the Stal Gallery in Muscat talked about their experience of being young photographers in the Sultanate of Oman, and their missions towards youth. They also presented the objectives of the professional photographers in Oman and their role to represent the Sultanate of Oman in an international dimension.
They explained how photography encourages the communication between generations, and between regions and how it strengthens their cultural and artistic connections.
The conference was accompanied by a mini-exhibition of 8 artworks selected by the artists for an inclusive experience of the audience.
It is worth noting that the conference, offering a global panorama on the art of photography as it is practiced nowadays, described the experience of French and Omani photographers in capturing the heritage, landscapes, archeological sites and soul of Oman. It allowed the public to understand the scope of the art of photography in the region, its challenges, needs and prospects. Building bridges between French and Omani photographers works, reputed and emerging, the conference raised the questions of identity, memory and legacy.
The conference shed light on the scenography links between the various forms of art and how modern photography is implemented in an exhibition that reviews archaeological holdings from ancient times.
Hosting the conference came within the framework of the museum and cultural collaboration between the National Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon and the French Embassy to the Sultanate of Oman, which resulted in the holding of the “Fragrant Journeys” exhibition at Bayt Greiza during the period (October 17, 2022 - May 7, 2023).
It is worth noting that the ‘Fragrant Journeys’ exhibition presents 23 artefacts from the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon, and highlights the frankincense and incense routes during the most prominent eras dating back to the Pharaonic era all the way to the avant-garde art. Those include a masterpiece of glazed pottery by the international artist Pablo Picasso, which is the first time a work by this international artist is displayed in Oman.
The conference was sponsored by Amouage, Givaudan, Veolia, Khimji Ramdas, JCDecaux, Lalique France and Oman Air.