|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
9 - 15 August 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
A Diwan of contemporary life (402)
Al-Ahram has undergone tremendous development over its 125-year-old history. The look and layout of the newspaper have visibly changed. In this week's instalment of the Diwan, Dr Yunan Labib Rizk * traces the introduction of photography to the pages of Al-Ahram
Say it with picturesSeptember 1926 ushered in a new era for Al-Ahram. After more than half a century of almost solid written print, the "photographic image" now became a regular feature of the newspaper's front page.
First invented by William Fox Talbot in the 1840s, the process of photography developed rapidly over the remainder of the 19th century and as enthusiasm for the new art spread, photographic societies were founded in the major metropolitan centres of Europe and the US. However, photography was slow to make its way into the press, perhaps because of the technical difficulties of transferring the image to newsprint. And, once the technology became available it must have been an extremely costly and time-consuming process, for Al-Ahram in the early 20th century only used photographs to document the most momentous events: the crowning of a new Egyptian king, the outbreak of World War I, the eruption of the 1919 Revolution.
Nevertheless, the developments in the technology of transferring photograph to print over the first quarter of the 20th century encouraged Al-Ahram to take bolder steps, even if that technology was still too imperfect to produce even reasonably clear pictures on the newspaper's pages.
That, however, is beside the point, since one of the objectives of this column is to present the history of the development of Al-Ahram without touchups. All we have done here is to engage in a process of selection in terms of the relative importance of the individual photos to the newspaper editors of the time and on the basis of a quality that would be user-friendly to readers now accustomed to seeing sharp, colour photographs in their morning newspapers.
Al-Ahram was a pioneer of the Arab press in many ways -- incorporating the latest available media technology was one of them. Yet, it stuck to tradition in certain respects, one of which was to give prominence to Egypt's rulers, political leaders, ministers and leading figures of the British occupation, with due attention, of course, to matters of hierarchy and protocol. This, however, did not prevent the newspaper from taking advantage of the opportunity to present to its readers pictures of Arab kings and princes and leading European leaders and politicians. Indeed, Al-Ahram learned early on that through the power of photography it could tantalize its readers with images of places, peoples and customs contemporary Egyptians could barely have imagined. The ceremonies surrounding the death of the Japanese emperor in 1926 and the ascension of Hirohito to the throne proved such an occasion.
The Khedive Tawfiq , 17 May 1885 Sultan Hussein Kamel assumes the throne following the declaration of the British protectorate over Egypt, 6 December 1914 King Fouad I on the anniversary of his enthronement, 9 October 192
Speaker of Parliament Saad Zaghlul Pasha, 15 September 1926 Mustafa El-Nahhas Pasha, Deputy Speaker of the Council of Deputies (parliament), 6 November 1926 Makram Bek Ebeid speaks on National Struggle Day, 14 November 1926 Mustafa Kamel and Mohamed Farid when commemora ted by the National Party, 6 November 1926
Ismail Sidqi Pahsa, Minister of Finance, 17 September 1926 Mohamed Mahmoud Pasha, Minister of Transport, 3 December 1926 Abdel-Khaleq Tharwat Pasha, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 16 October 1926
Arab and other world figures
Prince Faisal Ibn Saud during a European tour, 28 October 1926 Prince Hirohito becomes the emperor of Japan, 28 December 1926 King Faisal of Iraq visits Egypt, 1 October 1926
British Occupation figures
George Lloyd, British High Commissioner to Egypt, 16 October 1926 Chamberlain British Foreign Secretary, 16 October 1926
* The author is a professor of history and head of Al-Ahram History Studies Centre.
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