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The Photography of Nicolas Sapieha: Introduction February 13, 1998

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Photographing with a Swiss
4x5 inch camera in Oman
(Spencer Harrington)
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Shooting tomb reliefs at the river
necropolis at Myra, Turkey, in 1994
(Mark Rose)

Before he passed away in late 1995, Nick undertook three assignments for ARCHAEOLOGY, photographing El Tajin, Mexico; Turkey's Lycian coast; and the Sultanate of Oman. After he had made a name for himself working for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch--shooting everything from high-school basketball games to local politics--Nick became involved in projects with more sedate subjects, such as gardens in Portugal; architecture in Goa, India; a dog museum in Florence. Field conditions, especially in Turkey and Oman, were often less than ideal, but Nick seemed to revel in the challenge they presented and the sense of exploration that documenting remote archaeological sites afforded.

Nick's Oman photos capture the arid stillness of a land where the sun sends most living things scurrying for cover. There's a peacefulness in these shots. Nick's photography relied not on special lenses or filters, but on getting to a site as early as possible to take advantage of the soft morning light. The voyage along Turkey's Lycian coast was marked by frantic photographing of a site in the morning followed by an afternoon working on captions as we cruised to the next site. On the job, Nick was anything but peaceful. He was a perfectionist, and his otherwise kindly disposition and even temper ran afoul of his desire to take the perfect photograph. Anything that threatened to compromise the quality of his work, whether a camera balking or the sunlight becoming too harsh, was in danger of receiving a blistering verbal broadside. But these were never delivered toward those around him. He was, in fact, outgoing and convivial, often greeting and conversing with fellow visitors to sites in their own tongue, whether it was English, German, Italian, French, Polish, or Spanish. The scion of a princely house in Poland, Nick was gracious but unaffected; he was a good friend.

Click on the images below to see photography by Nicolas Sapieha.

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El Tajín: Abode of the Dead
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Oman's Heritage
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Turkey's Lycian Coast

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© 1998 by the Archaeological Institute of America
archive.archaeology.org/online/features/sapieha/
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