Traditional quilts used to be handmade by stitching two layers of shiny, satin fabric across cotton filling in a way to ensure the cotton remained evenly spread out. Although the fabric, locally known as “satin atlas” was available in many colors, traditional quilts would typically use pink,yellow or blue.
Akram Zaatari gathered dozens of photographs depicting those traditional quilts, all photographed by Hashem el Madani in Saida’s old souks in the early 1950’s. Very often, makers of traditional quilts would be photographed standing next to their creations as a testimony to their work. The pictures, which were intended to keep a record of the stitched patterns as a reference for future clients looking to order quilts, provide one of the earliest local examples of photography being used to catalog inventory in a small-scale industry, serving a relatively small market.
While showing these photographs to quilt makers in Saida trying to identify the people in them, Zaatari came across Mustafa al-Qady (Abu Abdo,) who was able to identify his father and his uncle in the pictures. The artist decided to commission al-Qady the quilts on display.
The title Photographic Currency refers to the use of existing photography to intervene in the
marketplace and revive a disappearing tradition, thus using La Vitrine for what a vitrine is
typically used for: the display and promotion of commercial goods. Photographic Currency
engages in a performative act that is based on archival material. Not only does it revive designs and a tradition, but it also exposes makers’ work to the public, connecting them directly to a potential market.