First edition of the award-winning photographer’s account of his months as a WWII photographer for the British Ministry of Information and Air Ministry, with over 45 pages of black-and-white photogravures featuring Beaton’s images of desert patrols, the wreckage of enemy planes and his portraits of figures such as the Queen of Persia and the seven-year-old King Faisal II of Iraq.
Early in WWII Cecil Beaton, celebrated for his portraits of celebrities such as Greta Garbo and renowned as the official photographer of the royal family, was commissioned by Britain’s Air Ministry and Ministry of Information to undertake the challenge of photographing the war in the Middle East. In the months leading up to Tobruk and El Alamein, amidst news of battles with Rommel in the desert, Beaton traveled across Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Iran, North Africa and Portugal. This first edition of Near East, with over 45 pages of photogravures after photographs by Beaton, is accompanied by his engagingly modest journalistic account, and features his images of soldiers in the field, blistering sandstorms, the shattered wrecks of enemy planes, desert patrols and holy sites in Jerusalem. Beaton’s exceptional skill as a portraitist is seen in his images of the Queen of Persia, the Emir Abdullah of Transjordania, and in his image of the seven-year-old King Faisal II of Iraq, who, Beaton writes, “enjoyed changing the films in my camera.” The king would be assassinated at the age of 23 in 1958. Knighted in 1972, Beaton also achieved renown as a writer, artist and as an Oscar-winning costume and stage designer.