Regional Surveys, Fine and Performing Arts

Kamil and Rifat Chadirji Photographic Archive

Kamil Chadirji (1897-1968), born to an influential Baghdad family, played a central role in the political life of lraq as founder and President of the National Democratic Party. His position allowed him unique opportunities to take photographs throughout Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. Kamil’s son, Rifat Chadirji (b. 1926), perhaps better known as one of the most influential Iraqi architects of the 20th century[1], was also an accomplished photographer, author, teacher, and critic. Together, their vast collection spans more than 5 decades and contains ca. 100,000 negatives and images documenting the Middle East, primarily Iraq.

The collection illustrates daily life, cultural engagement, and social conditions in the Middle East from the 1920s – 1970s. This important record also provides a unique look at the significant transformation of Baghdad’s built environment over time.

Once on loan to the Arab Image Foundation (Beirut, Lebanon), the entire collection has been given to the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT through a gift from the Chadirji family. In 2016, while on loan to the Arab Image Foundation and with a grant from the Graham Foundation, the photography of Rifat Chadirji, in particular, was highlighted in an exhibition entitled, Every Building in Baghdad: The Rifat Chadirji Archives at the Arab Image Foundation, which opened in Los Angeles, CA early January 2018, before returning to MIT.

On Archnet, the collection is divided into two main sections: 


While both collections contain images of people and places, the Rifat Chadirji collection also contains a collection of photographs that Rifat Chadirji took of his architectural projects

    As with all archives given to AKDC@MIT Libraries, the collection will be catalogued, digitized, and made available to scholars, students, and research via AKDC’s research portal, Archnet, or in person at the Center. For more information, please contact akdc@mit.edu.



    Sharon C. Smith, Ph.D.

    Program Head, Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT

    Cambridge, MA

    21 December 2017


    [1] Through the generosity of Rifat and Balkis Chadirji, AKDC@MIT also houses the Rifat Chadirji Architecture Archive.

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