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Kamil and Rifat Chadirji Photographic Archive

Identifier: AKDC-2017-0001

Content Description

Entire extant collection of negatives and other photographic materials, and/or prints of the photographic output of Iraqi, Kamil Chadirji (ca. 1897-1968), and his son, the Iraqi born architect Rifat Chadirji (1926-2020). The collection consists of ca. 1500 Kamil Chadirji negatives, and ca. 96,000 negatives of Rifat Chadirji, and a few other photographers images included in Rifat Chadirji's collection. The Rifat Chadirji material, besides that of Kamil Chadirji, is housed in sleeves and envelopes inside ca. 103 binders and archival binder boxes, also slide boxes, and a very broad 2 page description of the contents of the binders. Kamil Chadirji's photographic material (ca. 1,500 negatives, numerous prints from the negatives, plus 4 small boxes of slides was received together in a separate container, a large plastic box arranged largely by negative number.

After this collection arrived at the Aga Khan Documentation Center, Sharon C. Smith, the Program Head of the Center at that time, wrote the following to describe and give context to the Kamil and Rifat Chadirji Photographic Archive:

Kamil Chadirji (1897-1968), born to an influential Baghdad family, played a central role in the political life of lraq as founder and President of the National Democratic Party. His position allowed him unique opportunities to take photographs throughout Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. Kamil’s son, Rifat Chadirji (b. 1926), perhaps better known as one of the most influential Iraqi architects of the 20th century[1], was also an accomplished photographer, author, teacher, and critic. Together, their vast collection spans more than 5 decades and contains ca. 100,000 negatives and images documenting the Middle East, primarily Iraq.

The collection illustrates daily life, cultural engagement, and social conditions in the Middle East from the 1920s – 1970s. This important record also provides a unique look at the significant transformation of Baghdad’s built environment over time.

Once on loan to the Arab Image Foundation (Beirut, Lebanon), the entire collection has been given to the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT through a gift from the Chadirji family. In 2016, while on loan to the Arab Image Foundation and with a grant from the Graham Foundation, the photography of Rifat Chadirji, in particular, was highlighted in an exhibition entitled, Every Building in Baghdad: The Rifat Chadirji Archives at the Arab Image Foundation, which opened in Los Angeles, CA early January 2018, before returning to MIT.

On Archnet, the collection is divided into two main sections:

Photographs by Kamil Chadirji Photographs by Rifat Chadirji

While both collections contain images of people and places, the Rifat Chadirji collection also contains a collection of photographs that Rifat Chadirji took of his architectural projects.

As with all archives given to AKDC@MIT Libraries, the collection will be catalogued, digitized, and made available to scholars, students, and research via AKDC’s research portal, Archnet, or in person at the Center. For more information, please contact

Sharon C. Smith, Ph.D. Program Head, Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT (2011-2018) Cambridge, MA 21 December 2017

[1] Through the generosity of Rifat and Balkis Chadirji, AKDC@MIT also houses the Rifat Chadirji Architecture Archive.


  • 1920s-2000s


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.


200,000 item(s) (102 notebook or box binders with translucent sleeves in which are held the vast majority the photographs, negatives and notes of Rifat Chadirji's photographic material (most photographs are by him, some are images collected by him). Approximately six 5-inch document boxes of photographs and eleven smaller boxes of negatives, hold the Kamil Chadirji photographic material.) : Circa 100,000 negatives, circa 100,000 photographic prints, notes with many of the photographic, circa 1,000 contact sheets, and under a small number of slides (100?). ; To come.

Language of Materials




Kamil and Rifat Chadirji Photographic Archive
Data Entry In Progress
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Initial ArchivesSpace draft description.

Repository Details

Part of the Aga Khan Documentation Center, MIT Libraries Repository

Cambridge US