Iraq’s Vanished History Unveiled Through the Lens of Latif al-Ani

Amelia Earhart
3 Min Read

Market Research Record – In the realm of photography, few individuals have left as indelible a mark on their country’s visual history as Latif al-Ani, renowned as “the father of Iraqi photography.” Since the 1950s, al-Ani has dedicated himself to capturing the essence of Iraq through his lens. However, the tragic reality is that many of the subjects he documented have since been destroyed, leaving behind a void that yearns to be excavated.

Originating from his tenure with the British-run Iraq Petroleum Company, al-Ani’s photographic journey began during a transformative period in Iraq’s evolution. His camera deftly captured the emergence of new industrial infrastructures, as well as a vibrant cosmopolitan culture. Yet, amidst this period of change, the country was plagued by political turmoil, with the 1958 Iraqi military coup serving as the first of many regime changes that would forever alter Iraq’s landscape.

Now in his late 80s, al-Ani embarks on a poignant expedition, revisiting the locations he immortalized in his photographs of a bygone era, as documented in Sahim Omar Kalifa and Jurgen Buedts’s captivating documentary, “Iraq’s Invisible Beauty.” During his tenure at the Ministry of Culture and as the official photographer for various presidents, including Saddam Hussein, al-Ani’s body of work carried both journalistic and profound aesthetic and archival significance. Tragically, numerous architectural landmarks he captured have succumbed to the ravages of endless wars and civil conflicts, existing solely within al-Ani’s preserved negatives—many of which were lost during the tumultuous events of the 2003 American invasion of Iraq.

While al-Ani’s career inevitably intertwined with Iraq’s political turbulence, the documentary curiously omits an exploration of the social context underlying his photographs. His seemingly neutral stance remains unexamined, a missed opportunity for deeper inquiry by the filmmakers. Furthermore, the decision to employ a voiceover actor to narrate al-Ani’s perspective in English adds an arguably unnecessary embellishment to an already captivating life story. Similarly, the use of a sentimental French song to frame the film feels out of place, particularly as al-Ani himself expresses his unwavering refusal to abandon his homeland for the West. While the documentary beautifully commemorates an Iraq that exists no more, its examination of al-Ani’s legacy merely scratches the surface, leaving viewers craving a more profound exploration.

“Iraq’s Invisible Beauty,” a mesmerizing documentary, will be released on July 21 at Bertha DocHouse in London. Witness the vanished history of Iraq unfold through the lens of the legendary Latif al-Ani.

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Amelia Earhart, an accomplished news reporter, and writer, brings a flair for storytelling and sharp journalistic insight to her work. As a valued contributor to, she delivers timely news and analysis on various industries. Amelia's dedication to accuracy and her adventurous spirit drive her to uncover impactful stories, leaving a lasting impression on her readers. With years of experience in journalism, she remains committed to journalistic integrity, informing and inspiring a wide audience in the dynamic world of media.
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