Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Studio Kerop

Several years ago, while doing research for a project on 20th century Egyptian photographers, I paid a visit to Studio Kerop - the last of the old portrait studios of downtown Cairo. The venue, located on Emad al-Din Street, was established by Hagop Keropian, one of a number of Armenians who together dominated the profession of photography in Egypt starting in the early 20th century.

At the time of my visit, the studio, with its ancient large format camera and slightly morose air of decay, was still being run by an aging Nubar Keropian, Hagop's son. The place was more of a monument and nostalgic throwback to a lost era than a functioning studio. Nubar admitted as much. But he was still very much in his element and quite happy to entertain visitors. 

I bought some old prints of Cairo taken by the elder Keropian in the 1940s and 1950s. The above shot shows the bar in the old Shepheard's Hotel - a popular haunt for foreigners and the Egyptian elite until the hotel's destruction by fire in 1952. 

Since my last visit to Cairo a few years ago, I've been wondering what happened to Kerop and his studio, as well as some other familiar venues located along the protest-battered avenues that branch out from Tahrir Square like the tentacles of an octopus.

Nubar, it seems, is still around. 

An American photographer who shot the recent protests to mark the 2nd anniversary of Hosni Mubarak's ouster, captured an image of Nubar standing in the fray with his camera (the photo is the first of the series). 

It's probably hard to appreciate how surreal the events of recent years must be for a man whose life and work are tied to images and memories of Cairo which are so far removed from today.

1 comment:

Tarek Ibrahim said...

Hey John and John,

I came upon your blog entry while researching on Kerop (Hagop Keropian). I am writing my MA thesis on the architecture of the old Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo, which was burnt down in 1952.

I'm trying to gather together as many images of the long-gone building, but I don't want to infringe on any copyrights. Do you know if there is a way to contact Nubar Keropian? Is there any way, to get permission to make copies of the images Hagop Keropian made of Shepheard's Hotel?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Kind regards,

Tarek Ibrahim
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
tarek.ibrahim@gmail.com