Author: Markus Ritter, Staci G. Scheiwiller, eds.
Reviewer: Mira Xenia Schwerda
Reviewed by Mira Xenia Schwerda (Harvard University)
Published on H-AMCA (February, 2021)
Commissioned by Alessandra Amin (UCLA)
“No artist’s brush such an image could create” has been inscribed on a photograph of a group of poets in Shiraz taken by the photographer Mirza Hasan (1853-1915) in 1894. Iranian poet ‘Abd al-Asi ‘Ali Naqi al-Shirazi composed the poem specifically for the photograph. After declaring “Praise be to the lord for this blessed page,” he refers to the unique nature of photographs as inimitable by the painter’s brush and then begins to praise those depicted (quoted in Carmen Pérez González’s essay in the volume under review, pp. 199-200). Fourteen years earlier, the Ottoman photographer Muhammad Sadiq Bey (1832-1902) also reflected on the medium after he had taken the portrait of Shaykh ‘Umar al-Shaibi, the guardian of the Kaaba: “By means of photography, I depicted the highly esteemed one and sent him [this photograph] with the following verses: ‘My heart captured your presence in the grace and luster of the Kaaba. My heart is burning [with pain] because of the separation, and yet photographers are not condemned to burn in fire [in hell]. You, I have drawn on paper in friendship and memory” (brackets in the original; quoted in Claude W. Sui’s essay in the volume under review, p. 119).