Photo Exhibit Highlights the Middle East

Feb. 7, 2013

The W. R. Poage Legislative Library at Baylor University presents their spring exhibit, Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics. The exhibit will open on Tuesday, Feb. 5 and run throughout the semester to May 15.

The Middle East Patterns exhibit will extend beyond the Poage library and include Moody Memorial Library, The Texas Collection and the Armstrong Browning Library.

Director of The Texas Collection John Wilson encourages exhibit visitors to view the exhibit from the perspectives of both art and story.

"The items we selected for The Texas Collection are all landscapes," Wilson said. "It takes you on a geographic journey of the Middle East. I think it's the color, the expanse of the country, and the romance of travelling abroad."

The exhibit will feature over 300 original photographs from Dr. Colbert Held, a 1938 alumnus of Baylor, former Foreign Service Officer with the State Department, and retired diplomat-in-residence at Baylor University.

Held and his wife, Mildred, were based out of Lebanon during their years with the State Department but spent time in several Middle Eastern countries. Held has more than 19,000 photographs that portray the people and culture of this area.

"My fascination began during my doctoral studies in political geography in the late 1940s, when the Arab-Israel conflict became momentous and my colleagues debated the situation pro and con," Held said. "But my real passion for the region evolved a decade later as I traveled around the various countries [16 of them], from Turkey to Egypt and Iran to Yemen."

Held has previously published work, but this is the first time his photography will be publicly recognized. The name of the exhibit came from Held's book, Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Patterns, published in 1989 with John Thomas Cummings. The book, which is now in its fifth edition, takes a look into the geography and culture of the Middle East.

"What makes the exhibit so unique is that it comprises photographs taken by one person - an experienced but not professional photographer - over more than half a century, with many photos showing changes in specific sites," Held said. "Also, exhibit photographs are all from film, from Kodachrome film slides, not from digital images - another reason that the exhibited prints, some two feet by three feet, are remarkable."

Doctoral candidate Corinne Peters spent the last six months working with Held as the exhibit curator.

"Corinne brought a fresh eye to the task," Held said. "I had seen most of the images dozens of times and had the viewpoint of an academic geographer."

The exhibit is sponsored in part by Aramco Services Company, based in Houston. Aramco Services Company is the U.S.-based subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a fully integrated, global petroleum and chemicals enterprise. ASC's geographical area of responsibility extends throughout North America, with operations in the U.S. and Canada, and selected activities in South America.