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Praising the photographs of Francis Frith, the grocery wholesaler-turned-photographer who undertook three photographic expeditions to the Middle East between 1856 and 1860, an Athenaeum critic wrote: “Mr. Frith, who makes light of everything, brings us the Sun’s opinion of Egypt, which is better than Champollion’s, Wilkinson’s, Eōthen’s, or Titmarsh’s.” Viewed as re-creations of nature itself, unmeditated reproductions of the real world fashioned by the direct agency of the sun, photographs were extolled as truthful and unbiased representations of reality. This conviction, which ignored the input of the human operator, imbued early photography with a passionate enthusiasm and mission: to reproduce the world in its own image, to make light of everything. Photography emerged not as an art form, still less as the result of certain developments in painting as proposed recently by Peter Galassi, but as an accurate and highly efficient means of transmitting visual information.
Social Science Research, especially foreign research, in and on the smaller states of the Arabian Gulf is a very new phenomenon. Only a few serious works on the area have been published in English, leaving an almost limitless opportunity for new research. There is, however, a common misconception that access to these states, at least for American nationals, is strictly limited as it is in neighboring Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. This is not really the case in the sheikhdoms, although it is true that all five states are somewhat wary of research, especially social science research, and the working atmosphere varies from one of relative openness to considerable skepticism. Still, a surprising amount of eminently rewarding research is possible here if one arranges it carefully in advance.