From Emperor to Military Dictator

13 Sep 2007 – 11 Nov 2007

Regular hours

11:00 – 19:00
11:00 – 19:00
11:00 – 19:00
11:00 – 19:00
11:00 – 19:00

Cost of entry


The Photographers' Gallery

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Just off Oxford Street so accessible by bus services to Oxford Street and a 2 minute walk from Oxford Circus Tube Station.

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From Emperor to Military Dictator: Shemelis Desta's Ethiopian Archive 1963-1982


Against the political and historical events that defined the twentieth century, Shemelis Desta recorded the tumultuous history of Ethiopia. For the first time in a major exhibition the key figures and moments he captured are revealed.

From the early 60's until deposition Desta was Haile Selassie's, Emperor of Ethiopia 1930 ' 1974, official court photographer. During this time he took photographs of State leaders, including a youthful Queen Elizabeth II, paying their respects.

Following the infamous 1974 military coup and subsequent deposition of the Emperor, Desta continued to record government activity under the rule of the military dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam. Desta captured the colourful pageantry of state military processions as well as a state visit from Fidel Castro.

This exhibition not only celebrates the power of the documentary photograph and the discovery of such a monumental archive, but also the story of a very personal journey and a country that is rich in culture, tradition and history.

Curated by Autograph this exhibition coincides with the Ethiopian calendar's millennium celebrations on 11 September 2007.

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