Friday, May 10, 2013

Balmira Gallery Opening ~ A Cultural Boost for Fez

It has taken years of work but now the Dar Balmira Photographic Gallery is about to open. Jearld Moldenhauer has more than 300 photographs on display covering everything from historic photographs of Fes to stunning images from the Moroccan countryside and of Moroccan nature. 

One of the most fascinating sections of the extensive photographic exhibition is the collection of historic Photos of Fes Medina taken in 1915-16 by Commander Larribe. Published in 1917 by Editions G. Bertrand in Paris. Three portfolios include 119 photogravures averaging 163mm x 103mm and a foreword and notes by Alfred Bel.

Jearld has spent a huge amount of time and effort to produce the prints on display. These small photogravures were scanned into Photoshop where a professional conservator restorer did his best to improve these fading images. They were then enlarged This is an ongoing project and there are many more images, both from the Larribe albums and other sources awaiting restoration and printing.

In his own words

Jearld Moldenhauer says this about Dar Balmira

The house named Dar Balmira or “Falcon House” is located in Gzira, a very old area on the Andalousian side of Oued Fes, about a 3-minute walk from Rcif. I bought this particular house for several reasons. The carved painted ceilings in the four salons are exceptionally beautiful and the roof deck offers a wonderful panorama of the Medina with Mount Zalagh prominent on the northwest horizon. The house had been owned by only a few families and had been kept up far better than so many I had looked at.

It didn’t take long for me to conclude that the large salons would be ideal for art galleries and the roof deck with its fantastic relationship with the sky above and view of the Medina as a place I could develop an aviary for various parrots as well as a major collection of botanical specimens.

By chance one day when I was searching the internet for old books about Morocco I came across an antiquarian dealer offering the 3 portfolios of 1915-1916 photogravures of the Fes Medina taken as a sort of pictorial survey by French Army Commandant Françoise Larribe. Once I had them in my possession I realized that these rather tiny, somewhat deteriorated images needed to be restored and enlarged in order to realize their potential as historical documents accessible to the general public.

My own career was that of a bookseller but since the age of 13 I continuously pursued my interest in photography. Now that I am retired this interest has been able to grow and be developed. Once settled into Dar Balmira I purchased a small motor scooter and started to explore the countryside in every direction from Fes. Once I started to see the landscape and variety of nature the country has to offer, this slow method of travel with my photo equipment became a major source of inspiration and personal happiness to my new existence in Morocco.

Most areas I have photographed at present are off the usual tourist beaten path and I have only rarely encountered foreigners along the way. This presented the Dar Balmira gallery project with yet another unique opportunity: to show visitors to Fes images of the country they might otherwise not see, thereby enhancing their sense of understanding and appreciation of the beauty of this country.

Already the salons and corridors exhibit more than 300 photographs. And yet the project has barely begun. Since acquiring the Larribe portfolios I have succeeded in finding other old photograhic images deserving to be brought to life again through the technology at hand. And my own travels around the country need to be both expanded and repeated to do justice to enormous variety of life, culture and topography to be found in every corner of Morocco.

For more information: 
Open 9am to 6pm
1 bis Derb Saoud
(3 minute walk from Bab Rcif

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Anonymous said...

How wonderful! I was just wondering whether there is free entry and a need to call before coming?

Anonymous said...

Hello from Dar Balmira!
Hours are 9am - 5pm. Entrance fee is 30 d.h.
with guided tour. No need to phone. From Rcif Gate (little gate where the souks begin, you turn right. When you get to the first street on the right you go up until it splits off. There are 3 "Dar Balmira" signs in zellige which should lead you to the house. Alternately, ask anyone in the area and I'm sure they'll point the way.