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Men of Silwan

Men from Silwan photographed by French photographer Felix Bonfils, c.1890


Félix Bonfils was a French photographer who lived and worked as a photographer in the Middle East in the late nineteenth century.

In 1867, Bonfils left his home in the south of France and moved with his wife and children to Beirut, which he knew from his time serving in the French army there. Soon thereafter, the couple founded a commercial photographic studio, Maison Bonfils, which soon became a major source of photography from the Middle East, with a particular focus on Jerusalem.

By 1876, he had published his first catalogue of more than 500 photos, together with over 130 ethnographic portraits.1

Bonfils was also among the first to create color photographs using a new technique, Photochrom, developed in 1880.2

His work remains an important testament to Jerusalem, Palestine, and the Middle East in the early days of photography. 



Alex Pezzati, “New Additions to the Bonfils Photographic Collection,” Penn Museum, Expedition Magazine, Volume 41, Issue 1, 1999,


Biography: 19th Century photographer of Middle East – Félix Bonfils,” Monovisions Black and White Photography Magazine, July 28, 2018.


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