The Arab Imago: A Social History of Indigenous Photography 1860-1910  (Princeton University Press)  is the first book in English to comprehensively research native studios in Alexandria, Beirut, Cairo, Jaffa, and Jerusalem as well as early Hajj photography in al-Hijaz (now Saudi Arabia) during the late Ottoman period. In doing so, the book investigates the relationship between indigenous photography, social transformations and the creation of modern Arab society in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine before World War One.  It offers a new theory of reading indigenous photography that reaches beyond the West versus the rest paradigm that structures the history of photography.

"We have been waiting for effective global histories of photography to disturb and decenter the questions we ask--not globalized histories, radiating out in a familiar narrative of export, influence, and derivation, but histories that start elsewhere. Stephen Sheehi’s The Arab Imago, a social history of indigenous photography in the Ottoman Arab world, is a model for this. It provincializes the history we have and irrevocably pluralizes both photographies and the interwoven modernities of which they were part." John Tagg, Binghamton University, author of The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning

"Hugely original, both empirically and theoretically, this is a superbly ambitious book. Sheehi helps the reader escape from the familiar landscape of colonial representation into the complex terrain of indigenous photography, which is filled with images and practices that will provoke new kinds of debates. The Arab Imago disorders a world we thought we knew in ways that will be highly productive." Christopher Pinney, University College London, author of Photography and Anthropology

"The Arab Imago is a remarkable and timely book that will make a significant contribution to Middle East studies and to the theory and history of photography. Sheehi’s discussion of indigenous photography in the Arab world sheds new and much-needed light on photography’s other histories." Ali Behdad, UCLA, author of Camera Orientalis: Reflections on Photography of the Middle East​ 


Stephen Sheehi