International Site Profiles: Arab Image Foundation

In an opinion piece posted last week on the limitations of access to crowdfunding projects, we made an argument for taking the initiative to explore sites that promote photographers from countries and cultures less frequently seen. We're following that post with a series of short profiles that will collectively provide a starting point for this exploration of international blogs, online magazines and pages. We began this week with suggesting a look at Kilele and at We Take Pictures Too. Today we follow with the Arab Image Foundation.

The Arab Image Foundation website is a digital image database featuring 10,000 of the 300,000 images in the collection of the non-profit AIF, which are physically cold-stored at their purpose-built facility in Beirut. Images date from the mid-nineteenth century through today. The AIF was created in 1997 to collect, preserve and study photographs from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arab diaspora and forms part of MEPPI, an initiative by five institutions towards the preservation and awareness of photographic collections in the broader Middle East.

The AIF’s approach to assembling a collection differs from that of more traditional institutions by being led primarily by the critical and creative work of artists. They initiate projects in collaboration with galleries, museums, and cultural institutions that result in the creation of exhibitions, publications, artistic projects and scholarly research that explore and seek to expand the AIF's collection. By seeking the engagement of artists and scholars, the result is a dynamic collection that "does not merely illustrate the history of photography in the region, but rather situates a wealth of different photographic practices in a complex field of social, economic, political and cultural factors."

The AIF's mission and digital image database have similarities with those of Medellín's Biblioteca Pública Piloto, featured on fototazo in January.