American Arts Festival Photography Week

From 16 February to 8 March 2007, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) in Doha sponsored a series of programs on the American arts, entitled the American Arts Festival. The Center at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar), conducts programs of scholarship, research, and public outreach in the fields of international and regional affairs. CIRS keeps in touch with its surrounding environment by providing various cultural and educational programs that communicate with both the local population and the larger international arena.

Prior to 1940, the United States was a predominantly rural nation. After the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) industrialization and the movement of peoples, both internal migrations and immigration into the United States, changed the face of America. Rapid industrialization created a need for an unskilled labor force that drew people to America's cities. During the same period, photography emerged as an important form of artistic expression. The growing middle class in America provided an audience and patrons for this bold new vision, while the grace and chaos of urbanization inspired artists to document these cities and the people who made them so vibrant. What has survived is an elegant record of a nation experiencing the growing pains of entering the industrial world. Qatar is poised at the same moment in its history growth and we hope that by giving you this glimpse into the history of the American city the similarities and differences can contribute to our mutual understanding.

Photographs depicting the American City from 1880 to 1950 were on display at Landmark Center throughout the American Arts Festival. A lecture by Sam Abell, National Geographic Photographer, as well as workshops by Georgetown University faculty, and members of the Qatar Photographic Society was offered.

Photography Competition:

The Photography Section of the American Arts Festival also featured a photography competition that was open to the public. This was a unique opportunity for those interested in the art of photography to actively take part in the fulfillment of that dream and to present their work to their fellow colleagues and to professionals of the field. Sam Abell, National GeographicPhotographer, formed part of the judging panel for the photography competition and was there to offer advice and support to those taking part in this prestigious event. Submissions were accepted between 15 November 2006 and 8 February 2007.

Photography Week Participant Biographies:

Sam Abell is a veteran National Geographic photographer and one of only four staff photographers in the history of the magazine. The archetypal National Geographic photojournalist, Abell's work often tells evocative stories of time and place: Lewis and Clark, the Mississippi River, the Amazon, Australia, and Japan’s Imperial Palace. Most recently he told his own story in his book Sam Abell: The Photographic Life. His photographs capture the beauty of both culture and nature. He has photographed dozens of stories, authored award-winning books, and shown his work worldwide. Abell shares the excitement, intrigue, frustration, heartbreak, and joy of spending 35 years on assignment around the world for the world's most trusted magazine.

Khalifa Al-Obaidly is an artistic photographer. In 1993 he received a degree in Marine Biology from Qatar University which spurred his interest in underwater photography. He served as Director of the Qatar Photography Museum and worked on building their collection. He constantly challenges the medium of photography and pushes its boundaries with new and unique techniques and designs. Currently he is Head of PR at the Civil Aviation Authority.

Kate Sampsell-Willmann, a U.S. intellectual and social historian and a fine art photographer, received her Ph.D. (with distinction) from Georgetown University in 2002, her J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1991. She is the author of If I Could Tell This Story in Words . . . : Lewis W. Hine and the Intellectual History of Social Documentaryforthcoming from The University of North Carolina Press, “‘Three Generations of Grass’: Photography, Liberalism, and the American Yeoman,” History of Photography (Dec. 2003), and "Ellis Island and Lewis Hine’s Lived Experience: Photographs as Ideas" forthcoming from The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Dr. Sampsell-Willmann is currently a member of the history faculty at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar and has also taught American history in Turkey and the U.A.E.

Abir Al Kuwwari was the first member of the Qatar Photographic Society in 1988. Her photographs focus on nature, still-life and children. Her talent lies in her ability to bring profound meaning to the simple and the everyday, where she captures her subject matters in their natural environment. She has exhibited her work in various indoor and outdoor events and has won several awards.