The Tang Museum at Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY
Inhabited Landscapes features a series of large, panoramic landscapes of Algeria, created during the late-19th and early-20th centuries by the French photographer Alexandre Bougault. The photographs circulated among European and North American audiences through the tourist industry. The images feature a variety of scenes that at first glance recall the French Romantic Orientalist vision: stoic Arabian Camels amid an endless Saharan expanse, large groups of cloaked figures kneeling in prayer, a sea of low slung clay buildings, and women gathering water in a palm-filled oasis.
This project invites a new reading of the photographs as spaces where the notions of identity, loss, presence, and power shape the complex relations between the Algerian terrain and its inhabitants. The landscapes can be seen to reveal a series of paradoxes, making visible the conundrum of European Imperialism – the desire to modernize a “primitive” land, while at the same time longing to experience and represent it as untouched by Western modernization.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.