Section: Arts

Professor’s Mideast photos find new timeliness in show

Professor’s Mideast photos find new timeliness in show

Sam Leder ’17 admires Baly’s photographs displayed in the Gund Gallery’s curatorial classroom.

By Devon Musgrave-Johnson

Upon entering the “Remembering Baly” exhibition in the Gund Gallery’s Meier-Draudt Curatorial Classroom, visitors do not see anything specific about its namesake late professor Denis Baly, but instead see the phrase “Remembering Palmyra.” Featured on the wall are photographs of monuments and historical sites that no longer stand, and can never be recreated, due to the destruction caused by Islamic State attacks.

“The time was really ideal for a show, especially considering the events in the news surrounding Syria,” Eugene Dwyer, professor of art history, said. “We had the resources and the talent in Shariq Khan [’15] and Chloe Friedman [’16] to put this exhibition on and it all came together.”

Baly was a professor of religious studies at Kenyon in the 1950s and began traveling and taking photos, particularly in the Middle East, in the 1960s. After he died in 1987, Baly’s wife donated thousands of slides of his photographs to the College.

Thinking of the technological resources and personnel of the Gund Gallery, Dwyer proposed an exhibition honoring the work of Baly, and the task of organizing it soon fell to Khan and Friedman, both employed by the gallery’s Visual Resource Center. According to Friedman, the pair began their work just a few weeks into this semester.

Before the idea of the exhibition had even been conceived, the two were tasked with digitizing Baly’s slides. It was this task, in tandem with the current events in Syria, that made the exhibit so timely.

“We just realized these slides are incredible and these photos are amazing,” Friedman said. “We should make an exhibition that will allow students to see that and realize that these images exist. When we came across the Palmyra slides, our idea became clear.”

The exhibition shows contrasting cityscapes and images of nature as well as detailed architecture. It aims  to commemorate the longevity Baly has given these places that no longer exist in the world today.

“All of this is really good in the way that it provokes the mind,” Dwyer said. “It serves to remember Baly and remember that the project is a human project more than anything else. These monuments are there, but they only live when an individual brings them to life as Baly did with his photographs.”

The exhibition will stay up until Dec. 18, and features various slides of Baly’s photography, in addition to video podcasts filmed by Khan featuring Howard Crane, Royal Rhodes, Vernon Schubel and Dwyer, Kenyon professors who gave their take on Baly’s work.

“A lot of people helped out with the project, especially the art history department,”  Khan said. “It was pretty collaborative and we are so happy with the way it came out and the way it has been received.”


Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at