By Edward Lewis
Daily News Egypt
First Published: October 9, 2008

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg is taking time out on the roof of the Windsor Palace rooftop garden watching fisherman toil in the murky waters of Alexandria’s eastern harbor to explain the origins of her latest exhibition.
She is a busy woman and her current exhibition, “Sonnenstand” alongside Egyptian artist Bahaa Medcour’s “Two Faces of Eternity” is currently showing at Bibliotheca Alexandrina and sponsored by the Goethe Institute.
She recently exhibited in Bilbao and Paris before returning to Düsseldorf, her native city. Ursula’s also putting the finishing touches on the next big event due in January 2009, an exhibition in Munich alongside celebrated Polish artist Miroslav Balka.
At first glance, Ursula’s photographs strike the viewer with their several references to contemporary society and the overriding sense of loss and disappointment seen firsthand by the celebrated photographer. The images are shot in black and white, accompanied by some literature from well-known artists including the conceptualist artist Lawrence Weiner.
Four months prior to the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War, Ursula was photographing the marshes and remarkable archaeological sites of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. The devastation and disappearance of such beauty left an impression on her that has lingered throughout her career. As her exhibits go from Europe to the US, she continues to explore other diverse cultures such as Burma, Russia, Armenia, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Yet it was during her trip to Iraq that Ursula started researching Arab influence on Christian architecture, which is the main theme of her latest exhibition.
Central to the exhibition is the Cordoba Calendar that is displayed in Arabic within the exhibition hall. The calendar, believed to date to the 10th century, includes important dates and festivals of both Muslim and Christian faiths.
Ursula used the calendar to tie together the many themes of the exhibition, including life, light, seasons and cycles, astronomy, enlightenment and the complexity of human nature.
Seven blown up shots of various species of seeds echo the feeling of loss and struggle. The seeds were a difficult subject to capture due to their size and were photographed in a fashion that makes them look like they’re shaking; a technique that Ursula admits was time consuming. 
Ursula said seeds were chosen because they represent one of the most basic and fundamental elements of life. They were taken from a seed bank, highlighting the current threats including genetic modification and the delicate balance of the seasons. A quote that reads “Stars don’t stay still for anybody” splits the photographs on a large panel, once again highlighting the idea that we are governed by the earth’s cycle and not the other way around.
The following section of the exhibition includes shots of 10th and 11th century Spanish hermitages. Despite being a Christian sanctuary, their design is subtly influenced by Islamic architecture and highlights the intricate multi-faith relationships that existed during the period.
The role and cycle of the sun is captured in the sequences that illustrate the differing positions of light illuminating the dark interior. Ursula said that the concept came to her while she sat on the cold floor of a hermitage in Estaban, summing up the experience by quoting a well known saying, “If you travel by car you see nothing, if you walk you see more and if you sit on the side of the road you see all.”
On the adjacent walls of the Bibliotheca’s exhibition hall hangs Bahaa Medcour’s work entitled “The Face of Eternity.” Photography has been a passion for the electrical engineer, who said that he can’t remember the last day that went by without him using a camera.
The subject of Medcour’s exhibitions have included the Great Pyramid, Philae and Rome’s Coliseum.
The 47 colored prints focus on one of Egypt’s most famous edifices, the Great Pyramid, and the stunning tombs of the southern village of Hiw, some 550 km south of Cairo. As you look over the shots, you are immediately struck by the apparent differences of the subjects — one is an immense stone structure designed for the elite, the other very small and modest clay tombs. Still, he said, they are both ‘houses of eternity’ and therefore one of the overriding themes of his exhibition is unity.
The images, most of which have never been printed before, capture the Great Pyramid in a unique way. Medcour is well aware of the difficulties of photographing a subject that has been covered to death, but his approach, focusing on interesting details of the pyramid and not shooting it in its entirety.
“Every stone deserves more than a second look. Every shadow needs to be studied. Every angle needs to be measured. So many aspects of this Great Pyramid are still ignored till this day.”
The exhibit’s other focus, the tombs of Hiw (nicknamed the merry tombs due to the use of color by the villagers) provide some remarkable images of the graves and simple architecture of the cemetery. Many of the prints, said Bahaa, compliment those of the pyramids thus highlighting the notion of unity between the two subjects.
First displayed in the Egyptian Academy of Arts in 1984, the first photographer to do so, Bahaa has been to Hiw four times and exhibited these images extensively, including inaugurating the exhibition hall in the museum of Turin, as well as being included in numerous magazines.

© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg