Unless you really know what you’re looking for, it can be extremely difficult to find photographs of Iraq which focus on the culture of the country, as opposed to the devastations of the recent conflict. Many other photographs depict the expanses of desert, to the exclusion of the country’s cities and other countryside. (The late journalist Christopher Hitchens once wrote that the US Army should never have included the misleading word “desert” in any of their missions). It is invigorating, then, to see the stirring work of Qamar Hashim, the eight-year-old photographer who this week became an international phenomenon for his photographs of the culture and landscape of – in particular, though not exclusively – Baghdad.
“I want the world to know that my country is a country of peace”, states Hashim, and “a country of art and beauty and culture”. His photographs depict bookshops, cafés, Islamic practices and landscapes, and the Iraq exhibited through his lens is a refreshing insight into a culture which is beginning its recovery from a decade of conflict, to say nothing of the decades of stifling totalitarian rule which preceded it.
His perceptive photography has landed him membership of the Iraqi Union of Journalists, as well as his own page in a leading Baghdad newspaper. His name is certainly one to remember – as his various exhibitions in Baghdad testify – and if his work interests you, then you might also be interested in Iraq’s first photographic agency, Metrography, set up to represent and exhibit local Iraqi photographers in 2010. It’s well worth a look. And if your perception of Iraq is one of deserts, burning oil and overwhelming hostility, prepare to be proved wrong.
“I am not afraid any more”, says Qamar Hashim of his life in Iraq. “I can take pictures freely in the street. I am happy and my family is happy.”
Long – very long – may that last.