Established in Beirut in 1997, the Foundation holds a collection of more than 600,000 photographs from the mid-19th century to the present day. The Foundation has produced fifteen exhibitions and eight publications in partnership with international museums, galleries and cultural institutions. The collection has also provided an invaluable resource for artists’ projects, curatorial initiatives and academic research.
The contents of the AIF’s collection reflect both the general preservation mandate of the foundation and the specific research interests of its members. The artists, writers, filmmakers and historians affiliated with the AIF have, to date, initiated research projects in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Mexico, Argentina and Senegal. The result is a dynamic and at times idiosyncratic collection that does not merely illustrate the history of photography in the region but rather situates a wealth of different photographic practices in a complex field of social, economic, political and cultural factors.
The AIF’s collection has been shaped both by its mission, to collect and care for old photographs from the region; and by the specific research interests of its members and researchers. As a result, the collection is a dynamic and at times idiosyncratic one; not merely illustrating the history of photography in the region but also situating a wealth of different photographic practices within their social, economic, political and cultural contexts. The collection has also proved an invaluable resource for artists’ projects, curatorial initiatives and academic research.
The AIF makes its collection publicly accessible through its online image database and a range of other activities and projects. It organizes and participates in local and regional events related to the study of photography and its preservation. The AIF’s premises in Beirut include an extensive reference library with an attached study area open to artists and scholars through residency programs and visits from the general public.
In seeking the engagement of artists and scholars, encouraging public curiosity and working in partnership with like-minded institutions, the Foundation hopes to generate critical thinking about photographic, artistic and archival practices, using the collection as a basis for research, reflection and the creation of new works, forms and ideas.