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Antoin Sevruguin and the Persian Image
(Identity and Image)

September 28 - December 12, 2004

Copyright Antoin Sevruguin
Veiled Woman With Pearls, 1890-1900


“A vanished world peers from his tiny prints, made exotic with the passage of time and rising interest in Orientalism: precisely posed family groups; wrestlers and other character types; ornate interiors; and ancient Persian palaces' crumbling columns.”
–Laura Stewart (Daytona Beach News-Journal)


Antoin Sevruguin’s striking photographic images of life in Iran from the 1870s to the 1930s reveal a land caught between the norms of traditional Islamic society and the complexities of the rapidly encroaching modern world. The exhibition includes 35 black-and-white photographs made from original negatives and vintage prints housed in the archives of the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Galley and Freer Gallery of Art.

Antoin Sevruguin (late 1830s-1933) was one of Iran's most creative and prolific photographers. An Armenian Christian who lived most of his life in Tehran, traveled among the diverse worlds of Iranian society: royal and common, traditional and modern, public and private. Influenced by both Western and Eastern artistic traditions, Sevruguin brought a new sense of artistry to Iranian photography. He used the then relatively new medium of photography to capture the people and their culture at a time of change. His work included a great diversity of themes. Street scenes, images of common people, ceremonies, palace officials, archaeological studies and mountain landscapes fill the numerous plate-glass negatives he shot throughout his career. His photographs document in detail an unprecedented period in Iranian history. At the same time, they are often extraordinarily beautiful as works of art.

Sevruguin’s patronage was equally diverse. He served the royal court of the shahs and he ran a portrait studio open to the public. He also journeyed to sites of early Persian civilization to photograph the evocative ruins of the Iranian past.

Most of Sevruguin’s work was destroyed during his lifetime as a result of the Iranian constitutional crisis of 1906 and the transition from the Zajar to the Pahlavi dynasty. Some 7,000 glass-plate negatives by Sevruguin may have been lost in upheavals during the Persian constitutional crisis of 1906-11 and the subsequent transition (1925-28) from the Qajar to the Pahlavi dynasty. Today, more than 800 original photographs and glass negatives survive in the holdings of the Myron Bement Smith Collection of the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art archives - one of the world’s largest collections of surviving work by this early master.

This exhibition presents a panorama of Sevruguin's photographs of Iran, drawn completely from this collection. The exhibition has been designed not only to show a richly varied array of the photographer's work, but also to evoke the wonder of looking through an archive of photographs of a distant and fascinating time and place.
    Copyright Antoin Sevruguin
Village Girl, ca. 1875
About the prints: 35 Silver Gelatin prints

All photographs by Antoin Sevruguin. Antoin Sevruguin and the Persian Image was originally organized by and displayed at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., in 1999. Original exhibition curated by Frederick N. Bohrer. Traveling exhibition circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

Dr. Fred Bohrer
"Antoin Sevruguin and the Persian Image"
Tuesday, November 30
5:30pm - Meet the Curator and Book Signing
7:00pm - Exhibition Curator's Lecture

Click here for exhibition brochure...
Click here for press about the exhibition...
  “Persian Rhapsody”...Click here for flyer (pdf)
Friday, October 1

6:00pm - Champagne Reception amidst Antoin Sevruguin’s photography exhibition, “The Persian Image”

7:00pm - Persian-Inspired Cuisine and Entertainment Featuring Shardad Rohani With Ensemble
J. M. Goddard Center

Copyright Antoin Sevruguin Copyright Antoin Sevruguin
Copyright Antoin Sevruguin
Dervish, ca. 1890-1900 The Luggage Bearers, ca. 1890 Mendicant, ca. 1890-1900

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Exhibitions and programs at the Southeast Museum of Photography are supported in part by Daytona State College, Volusia ECHO and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on the Arts.

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