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Aloft: Jordanian photographer explores Kingdom’s aerial landscapes

By Saeb Rawashdeh - Apr 30,2024 - Last updated at Apr 30,2024

The exhibition will feature 26 large images from the project alongside the book, which features over 200 images from across the Kingdom (Photo by Bashar Tabbah)

AMMAN — After publishing “A Map and a Lens: Jordan Sights Unseen and Stories Untold”, “Unique and Outstanding” and “The Noble Sanctuary”, the Jordanian photographer Bashar Tabbah continues his mission to explore historical sites with his camera. This time, he explored the rich Jordanian cultural heritage and landscape from a helicopter with a group of scholars specialised in aerial archaeology.

“Seven years ago, I was invited to join the “Aerial Archaeology in Jordan project” [AAJ], which has been photographing and monitoring Jordan’s heritage sites for the past 26 years [in collaboration with the Jordanian air force], crucially serving as both an investigative project —to document and log previously undiscovered sites— and as a documentary project —to record the destruction and loss of sites over time,” Tabbah recalls, adding that the complete image archive of each flight is publicly available through the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME) website.

APAAME was a project set up in 1978 by its (and the AAJ) founder, David Kennedy and now run by Robert Bewley. 

Kennedy and Bewley documented thousands of sites not only in Jordan but around the Middle East. The goal of the initiative was to document sites which are under threat from the military conflicts, urban development, looting and vandalism.

“While flying with the AAJ, I brought an artistic approach to the project; between documenting each site, I would take moments to capture the beauty of the landscapes or unique textures I encountered,” Tabbah continued, noting that he used two specific photographic approaches, firstly standard shots from the air (known as Aerial Photography) and secondly ninety-degree-downwards shots to capture the extremely unique textures that are formed below (known as Orthophotography). 

Meanwhile, in January, Tabbah applied to join the 12th edition of the Image Festival Amman, organised by Linda Khouri and Darat Al Tasweer. “Once accepted, I challenged myself to produce a photography book in time for the festival launch, which is set for the 29th of April [three-month development window],” Tabbah said. The photography book is named: “Aloft: Textured Landscapes of Jordan.”

“This book marks my fourth project surrounding Jordan.

The Image Festival Amman, organised by Darat Al Tasweer since 2011, in partnership with many local and international institutes, aims to provide a platform for photographers in the region, attract a wider audience, and create opportunities for sustainable cultural exchanges involving both professional and amateur photographers,” Tabbah elaborated.

This year marks the festival’s 12th edition and will feature over 40 international and local artists across multiple venues throughout Amman.

Tabbah will be exhibiting his work at Zara Centre in Wadi Saqra Street. The opening will be on May 1st and will run for a month.

“For my book and the exhibition, I departed from my usual style of historical documentary and took up an artistic mantle, I selected the most impactful, unique and visually engaging images from my archives.

The exhibition will feature 26 large images from the project alongside the book, which features over 200 images from across the Kingdom,” Tabbah explained.

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