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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Wilfred Thesiger's Photography: In Print

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Wilfred Thesiger. “Across the Empty Quarter.”
The Geographical Journal
111, no. 1 (January 1948).

Wilfred Thesiger reported his first (overall the third) crossing of the Empty Quarter, October 1946–May 1947, to the members of the Royal Geographic Society, in an evening meeting, October 20, 1947.

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Wilfred Thesiger.
Arabian Sands.
Harlow: Longmans, 1959.
Signed by the author.

An established classic of modern travel, combining history, portraiture, and autobiography, Arabian Sands celebrates Wilfred Thesiger’s travels with the Bedu, whose comradeship gave him “the five happiest years of (his) life.” Though educated at Eton and Oxford, Thesiger was repulsed by the softness and rigidity of Western life. He set out to explore the deserts of Arabia, traveling among peoples who had never seen a European. For Thesiger, the Empty Quarter offered the ultimate challenge of Arabian exploration.

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Wilfred Thesiger.
The Marsh Arabs.
London: Longmans Green and Co., 1964.
Signed by the author.

The Marsh Arabs is an account of Wilfred Thesiger’s time in the marshes of Southern Iraq, where he lived from the end of 1951 until June 1958. As he remembered, “from my recollections, helped by my diaries, I have tried to give a picture of the Marshes and of the people who live there. Recent political upheavals in Iraq have closed this area to visitors. Soon the Marshes will probably be drained; when this happens, a way of life that has lasted for thousands of years will disappear.”

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Wilfred Thesiger.
Visions of a Nomad.
Glasgow: Collins, 1987.

In Wilfred Thesiger’s introduction to this volume, he gave rare insight into his thoughts about photography:

“Though I know little about the technique of photography and am lost when someone discusses the workings of a camera or the processing of a film, I have an instinctive sense of composition. . . . Occasionally, and sometimes purely by chance, everything—exposure, focus, the magic moment, and the composition—coincided to produce a photograph which continues to satisfy me. . . . When I browse among my sixty-five albums of these selected photographs, my most cherished possession, I live once more in a vanished world.”


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Wilfred Thesiger.
Desert, Marsh and Mountain: The World of a Nomad.
London: William Collins and Sons, 1979.