By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

More on Egypt, Mother of the World

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BELOW: Checking the View: Supreme Egyptian Military Headquarters, Heliopolis (Cairo):

SENTINEL

BELOW: “Meanwhile, the rich get…”: U.S.-favored former Tunisian ruler Habib Bourguiba, 1965.

Tunisian President, Habib Bourguiba

All of above photographs © William Carter.  Below photographs uncredited, via William Carter courtesy Camera Press (London).

Meanwhile, fundamentalists of every stripe have always liked to impress with “shock and awe”:

Public Execution

Public Execution

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

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Written by bywilliamcarter

June 8, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Egypt, Mother of of the World

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I landed in Beirut in 1964 knowing nothing of the region. I was there to represent a New York photo agency — when such outfits had their people stationed around the world doing photojournalistic assignments.

One of the first people I met was the New York Times’ Middle East bureau chief, Dana Adams Schmidt. A seasoned writer, he was just leaving for Egypt, Yemen, South Arabia and Yemen: did I want to go with him? I jumped at the chance.

In Cairo I accompanied Dana on some of his political interviews. Nasser was in power trumpeting his anti-colonialist, pro-socialist, Arab-nationalist agenda. Since time immemorial the Egyptians, with their proud history, had considered themselves the cultural and political leaders of the Arab community.

The term for this outlook was — and is — Masr, Um al-Dunia: “Egypt, mother of the world.”

I had time to explore the  teeming, wonderful streets. The following year I would return to the Nile Delta photographing for a UN agricultural development agency. The country’s problems were deep — seemingly intractable — yet the faces were joyous. I can only hope some of that spirit survives the latest crisis. Half a century seems less long inside a seedbed of civilization.

All photos © William Carter 1965
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Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

May 25, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Yemen: Then as Now? Part 4

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Transition to a still uncertain future
Photos and Text © William Carteryemen4-1Many Yemenis are short, and their donkeys more soyemen4-2Protecting himself from the sun with a vestige of British colonial timesyemen4-3The hot, humid valleys north of Sanaa are rich in agriculture — and malaria 

yemen4-4Yemen’s indigenous architecture long contributed to its reputation as a quasi-mythical land

 

yemen4-5In 1963 the Brits still hung on

 

yemen4-6Late in the day a colonial officer reviews a dwindling number of troops

 

yemen4-7Street life in Aden survived longer than the politicians on the walls

 

yemen4-8Building for an uncertain future — then as now

 

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May 11, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Yemen: Then As Now? Part 3

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Where there are children, there is hope

Photos and Text © William Carter

 

yemen3-1In 1964 we were told these were the first girls who ever went to school in Yemen; those who survived would now be nearly 60 years old

 

yemen3.2Building sites can also be fun

 

yemen3-2In traditional societies, gender-defined roles start early

 

yemen3-4Too old to be in the first school for girls?

 

yemen3-5Was this his first view of a camera viewing him?

 

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

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April 27, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Yemen: Then As Now? Part 2

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Photographs by William Carter © 1964

yemen2.1House in Sanaa, the capital

 

yemen2.2Tribal representatives pleading with Egyptian “anti-colonial” troops

 

yemen2.3Heading north, where Egyptian-backed revolutionaries were fighting Saudi-backed royalists

 

yemen2.4View from a British helicopter

 

yemen2.5Outpost in South Yemen: note man in prayer on wall

 

yemen2.6Modern town of Taiz

 

yemen2.7Traditional town of Sanaa

 

yemen2.8Traders in the southern port of Aden

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April 13, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Yemen: Then as Now?

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Photographs and Text © William Carteryemen1.1Tribal elder near Sanaa, Yemen during the 1964 civil war. He carries a sprig of “ghat,” the mild national narcotic, in his hat

When Condoleezza Rice popped up in Cairo a few years ago to lecture the pharaohs that she and the other neocons were going to bring democracy to the Middle East, I had to laugh.  It was redolent of the U.S. promising, a century earlier, to “make the world safe for democracy.”  More distantly, I was reminded of the “enlightened self-interest” pronouncements of the colonial centuries. I was in Yemen and Aden in 1964 when the Brits were withdrawing none-too-gracefully from the last vestiges of their empire “east of Suez.”  Reading the sad news of today’s Yemen, I am checking my files for photographs I took that fall in the company of my colleague, the New York Times’ Dana Adams Schmidt.

 

yemen1.2Chinese laborer, Yemen 1964: the Americans, the Soviets, and the Chinese raced to win hearts and minds in a road building competition while the Egyptians and Saudis sponsored a proxy war of factions that included the use of napalm

After flying by Egyptian military plane from Cairo to Sanaa, we slept for a few days in a mud brick skyscraper. I sampled “ghat” (the local mild narcotic), and we interviewed Yemen’s Egypt-friendly President and other local officials. We traveled north to the medieval town of Saada, close to a civil war then raging between the Royalists (backed by royal Saudi Arabia) and the Republicans (backed by Nasser’s Egypt).  Sound familiar today? In the nearby town of Taiz we interviewed an American foreign aid official who explained that the U.S. and the Russians were competing for influence in the country by building major roads, sending in Caterpillars from Peoria and asphalt from some Soviet province; even the Chinese were already in that game, shipping in laborers with picks and shovels.  We also interviewed a British official who knew far more about the tribes and sub-tribes than the Americans ever would, because the Brits had been there so long and taken a deeper interest in the native culture.

yemen1.3Then as now, the ultimate victims were the children

Next came the toughest road journey of my life.  In a vintage Land Rover we bumped and slid over hundreds of miles of nearly trackless dessert, south toward Aden, past some of the most destitute, disease-ridden villages in the world, stopping a few of times in this region then called “South Arabia” to overnight with jaunty British troops and cheerful colonial administrators, enabling Dana to fill up his notebook with more quotes and me to take more pictures.  Aden was a depressing, dangerous place in the throes of a Marxist sub-revolution; a cafe we had sat in an hour earlier was hit by a terrorist bomb. Most interesting (and quaint, now): we visited polling stations where British colonial officials, as prelude to their withdrawal from this final outpost of empire, were staging elections: fair, square, and meaningless.

yemen1.4In the strategic port of Aden, the British were preparing to depart from a last vestige of Empire by holding an election

All this was a long way from palm-fronded LA where I had grown up. But I shipped the uncensored shoot to New York by air freight (with the requisite bribe to the Beirut Pan Am agent). That was the start of my career as a photojournalist based in Lebanon.  Eventually I got most of the filmstrips and slides back, but that was half a century ago, and I’m still looking for more of them to scan.  I now see that even at that early stage (I had only taught myself photography 3 years earlier), I was more of a sucker for humanity than for the hard violence needed to sell news to a civilized society then preoccupied with race riots and Vietnam.

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March 30, 2018 at 12:00 pm

The Tones of Stones

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Sometimes, in our wanderings across the landscape of ancient Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean, my wife Ulla and I would stumble into a silent, ancient amphitheater. Persuaded to try my clarinet in that dry air, I’d soon be assured that even the softest tones carried well into the high rows.

Ulla and I treasure such sweet memories. But now they are jarred with bitter undertones —  endless war, brutal destruction at such magnificent sites as Palmyra.

Below, our sentimental snaps of twenty years ago have an implicit simplicity, a clarity of tone hard to recall today.

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Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

March 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm

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