A lot has changed in the Middle East over the past 50 years. That might be intuitive, but it’s never more evident than through the lens of Dr. Colbert Held’s camera.
Take the images above, for example. At left is a mostly empty stretch of desert along the Persian Gulf in 1973; at right, that same stretch of coast in 2003 – now part of Dubai, a city of two million people known for its ambitious skyscrapers and luxurious lifestyles. Both photos were taken by Held, BA ’38 — the first during his 20 years in the Middle East as a Foreign Service officer (part of the U.S. Department of State), the second during a return trip many years later.
In 1976, Held retired from the State Department to Waco, where he was invited by Baylor President Abner McCall, JD ’38, BA ’42, to join the faculty as diplomat-in-residence and professor in political geography. But even after returning to the States, Held and his wife, Mildred, continued to regularly visit the Middle East, always taking photos to document the changes they began to see.
Held’s knowledge of the region led to the publication of a book, Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics, in 1989; an updated sixth edition will soon be released, as the volume is still used as a textbook at Baylor and elsewhere.
This spring, Held (now 95) worked with Baylor doctoral candidate Corinne Peters to select approximately 200 photographs (out of his collection of more than 19,000) for an exhibit on display through May in Baylor’s W.R. Poage Legislative Library (pictured at right), sponsored in part by Aramco Services Co. Additional photos are also on display in Moody Memorial Library, The Texas Collection and Armstrong Browning Library.
Sic ’em, Dr. Held!