© Kegham Djeghalian

Unboxing Gaza: Disrupted Histories and Photo Kegham

Kegham Djeghalian Sr founded the first photography studio of Gaza. Focusing on the legacy of this exceptional photographer, Özge Calafato and Karène Sanchez Summerer will be in discussion with his grandson, Kegham Djeghalian Jr, who works on activating the surviving fraction of his grandfather’s endangered archive. The talk will address the significance of preserving Gaza’s precarious visual history and cultural heritage in the light of the current critical crisis of Gaza.

In 1944, Kegham Djeghalian Sr established Photo Kegham, the first photo studio in British Mandate Gaza. The studio gradually evolved into a key institution in Gazan society. For almost four decades, Kegham steadily inscribed the photographic history of Gaza through his social, official, political, documentary, and studio photography during its turbulent transition periods under the British mandate, the Egyptian rule, and the Israeli occupation of 1956 and from 1967 onwards until his passing in 1981. His grandson engages in archival research to explore Kegham of Gaza– the person, the photographer, and his legacy–and through this, is confronted with a non-linear reading of Gaza’s potential histories.

The notions of disruption and disrupted histories mark Kegham Jr’s approach in engaging with the surviving fraction of the archive; a concept he negotiates to be crucial for attempting to demystify Gaza: the land, the people, the memory, and the subjective histories that once were. Many of Kegham’s photos were destroyed in the recent bombings. Kegham’s legacy raises an urgency, and calls for critical questions on ways to preserve the precarious visual histories and visual heritage of Gaza, which this talk will address. Following a presentation by Kegham Djeghalian Jr, Özge Calafato and Karène Sanchez Summerer will engage in a panel discussion with Kegham.

About the speakers

Kegham Djeghalian is Professor of Fashion Studies, Image & Design at the German International University (GIU) where he is the Artistic Director of the Department of Fashion Design. Djeghalian is a visual artist, creative director, and fashion practitioner, whose work lies in the intersection of photography, image, the archive, and fashion practices. He has been a faculty member of the Photography Department at Paris College of Art since 2016. He was a lecturer at the Institut Français de la Mode in Paris where he also served as the pedagogic director of the MA in Image Design in 2018 – 2019.

Karène Sanchez Summerer is Professor and Chair of Middle Eastern studies, co-director of the Centre for Historical Studies at Groningen University. Her research and teaching interests include Christian Arab communities of and in the Middle East, a relational cultural and social history of Ottoman and Mandate Palestine (1870-1950), minorities in the Middle East. She is particularly interested in engaging with multilateral transnational connections. Her last publications include Imaging and Imagining Palestine: Photography, Modernity and the Biblical Lens (1918–1948) (2021), The ‘House of the Priest’. A Palestinian life (1885-1954) (2022), and Unsilencing Palestine 1922-23: 100 years after the beginning of the British Mandate in Palestine. The Franck Scholten collection revisited.

Özge Calafato is Lecturer in Literary and Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam and the author of Making the Modern Turkish Citizen: Vernacular Photography in the Early Republican Era (2022), which explores the photographic self-representations of the urban middle classes in Turkey in the 1920s and the 1930s. Calafato’s research interests lie at the intersection of photography, archives, memory and cultural identity. Between 2014 and 2020 she worked as the Assistant Director for the Akkasah: Center for Photography at the New York University Abu Dhabi.

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