Fellah Woman with Niqab

Photography by Hippolyte Arnoux, Egypt, late 19th century.
Courtesy of Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Orientalism liked to make use of photography, which was still in its infancy at the time. This gave its fantasy worlds at least the appearance of objectivity. The Lehnert&Landrock photo studio in Cairo proved to be particularly influential. Around 1900, Rudolf Lehnert traveled to North Africa to photograph landscapes and iconic sites (such as the pyramids of Giza). In addition, he photographed people. Lehnert’s camera view combines ethnographic observation with a colonial gaze and erotic mystifications. This is also the case here. It is unclear who is behind the veil. It was often actresses or prostitutes who mimed certain “types” such as the “fellachin” (Egyptian peasant woman).