Friday, August 08, 2008

Wavelengths to the Past

The Eternal Light of Egypt

by Sarite Sanders
Thames & Hudson (September 30, 2008)
220 pages/hardcover/126 duotone photographs/$50.00

Reviewed by Jain Lemos

Sarite Sanders issues the results of a thirty-year reconnaissance mission in her book, The Eternal Light of Egypt: A Photographic Journey. Conquering the sensitivity of infrared, Sanders’ impressions of Nile treasures are most welcoming. As the full gray spectrum is no longer hidden, gods and goddesses, mummies, rulers, colossi, temples and portals reveal a new likeness with prideful charm. Along with her timeless subjects, Sanders can rejoice with this mammoth personal and professional achievement.

Eternal Light is deeply rich in substance like the dark fertile soil of the region. There is an immediate admiration for Sanders’ understanding of the difficulties with the entire process surrounding infrared technique. In her excellent introduction, Dr. Dorothea Arnold, Curator for Egyptian Antiquities at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, compares and contrasts Sanders’ images with those of photographers Francis Frith, Werner Forman, Henri Stierlin and other artists obsessed with capturing the light of this ancient corridor. Arnold imparts her acute knowledge with tremendous care; her treatise provides a solution to the puzzles Sanders faced when selecting angles and points of focus.

There is much in the book to celebrate and discover. Discussing the images will be the first delight for readers. The photographs chosen for Eternal Light are not repetitive even when the same place is examined more than once. Quotations accompanying the images are inspiring rather than pretentious and create a perfect separate track. Instead of being filler they fittingly become the missing color channel. The back matter includes a lifetime study list of Egyptology within the sources of quotations, a picture index with edifying captions and Sanders’ adoring thanks as she reveals details of her own transformation.

Sanders waited—apparently without anxiety—to deliver Eternal Light. Her rewards deserve to be as massive as this undertaking. Likely, as she placed each piece together, she foresaw her work’s everlasting impact. Any trip to Egypt would be hollow without this special book as a primer. While there, don’t miss an exhibition of selections from The Eternal Light of Egypt hosted by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the American University in Cairo Press.

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