Photography is a very recent art form and profession. In addition to offering artists a new tool for creativity, it also provided a way of preserving scenes from life, by using a “mirror with a memory”—a camera lens—to document people, places, and events. From the moment it was invented, photography opened up new possibilities for archaeologists, natural and social scientists, and journalists. As a result, it was quickly adopted across the globe, including through Palestine, the Ottoman
Several hundred photographers visited Palestine during the nineteenth century, mostly Europeans interested in photographing holy sites connected to events in the Old and New Testament. It was not long before photography was picked up locally. Around 1860, a school for teaching photography was established in
Alongside Raad and Krikorian, Swedish photographer Lewis Larsson
(1881– 1958) also founded a photography atelier in Jerusalem in 1898. Larsson’s atelier was within a utopian society called the American Colony
, and it produced several famous photographers, including Palestinian-born American photographer John Whiting
(1882–1951) and Swedish photographer Eric Matson
(1888–1971). Many individuals who worked at the atelier would go on to become some of Palestine’s most important photographers. These included the Albina brothers,
Photography as a profession spread widely throughout Jerusalem during the first half of the twentieth century, and several Armenian and Arab photographers gained prominence. One of these was Hanna Toumayan
, who worked in Jerusalem in the early twentieth century and specialized in portraiture. His photographs show clients wearing a variety of different attires, including Bedouin garb and traditional clothing of the
In addition to those mentioned above,
Other Arab photographers also worked in Jerusalem during the Mandate period. Among them was
In addition to Jerusalem, photographers worked in other cities across Palestine. Jaffa-born
Several other photographers also worked in Bethlehem. Prominent among them were
Early local photography is notable for its reliance on demand for photographs and because photographers specialized in different fields. Some produced photographs to meet tourists’ and pilgrims’ rising demand for pictures of the holy land, and focused on photographing sites connected to the country’s biblical history. Others specialized in studio photography, to meet the demand for photographs of subjects wearing traditional clothing of the holy land, and later for photographs of bridal couples and of people needing them for official applications. After the call to arms was sounded for World War I , many photographers specialized in taking pictures of soldiers before they went to war. Others specialized in family portraits, taken in the studio. Still others photographed the dead, to keep their memory alive, especially for relatives who had no photographs of the person while he or she was alive. By the time British rule in Palestine drew to a close in 1948, the profession of photography had spread extensively across the country.
Albina, Iris. “Souvenir from Gethsemane: Portrait of the Albina Brothers.” Jerusalem Quarterly, no.60 (Autumn 2014): 60–79.
al-Hajj, Badr. “Khalil Raad—Jerusalem Photographer.” Jerusalem Quarterly File. no.11-12 (Winter 2001): 34–39.
Khalidi, Walid. Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History of the Palestinians, 1876–1948. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1984.
Nassar, Issam. Laqatat Mughayira: al-Taswir al-Mahalli al-mubakkir fi Filastin (1850–1948) [Different Snapshots: Early Local Photography in Palestine (1850-1948)]. Beirut and Ramallah: Qattan Foundation, 2005.
Nassar, Issam. “A Jerusalem Photographer: The Life and Work of Hanna Safieh.” Jerusalem Quarterly File no.7 (Winter 2000): 24–28.
Palestine Before 1948: Not Just Memory (Khalil Raad, 1854–1957). Exhibition brochure. Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2013.
al-Raheb, Mitri, Issam Nassar, and Ahmad Marwat, eds. Karimeh Abbud: Ra’idat al-Tasweer al-Nassawi fi Filastin [Karimeh Abbud: Pioneering Woman Photographer in Palestine]. Bethlehem: Diyar Publications, 2013.
Sheehi, Stephen. The Arab Imago: A Social History of Portrait Photography, 1860–1910. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016.