woensdag 1 januari 2014

Egypt Palestina Bonfils Phot. Art. G. Lékégian & Co. J.P. Sebah Photography

[Album Egypte, Palestina][Tussen 1865 en 1910]

Paul Faber (red.), Beelden van de Oriënt. Fotografie en toerisme 1860-1900, Amsterdam 1986

De volgende foto's in de map zijn vervaardigd door de fotografen: Bonfils (01-03, 20-28); Phot. Art. G. Lékégian & Co. (04, 05, 08); J.P. Sebah (16-19, 29-52 ). De vervaardiger van foto's 06-07 is onbekend

Bonfils was a family firm of French photographers, Félix Bonfils (1831-1886), his son Adrien Bonfils (1860-1929) and finally Lydie Bonfils née Marie Lydie Cabanis (1837-1918), wife of Félix and mother of Adrien. 

Félix Bonfils was born in St. Hippolyte du Fort in France in 1831. Originally a bookbinder, in 1860 he enlisted and was sent to the Levant. He liked Lebanon and when his young son Adrien (born 1860) developed respiratory problems, he decided to emigrate. In 1867 the Bonfils family moved to the dry climate of Beirut and opened a photographic studio there. Félix photographed extensively throughout Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Greece. His work is infused with a sense of exploration and love for his medium. The Maison Bonfils eventually became a large, successful business with branches in Cairo, Alexandria and France. The studio was famous for its Middle Eastern views, and profited from the enormous popularity of organized tours that had opened up tourism in the latter half of the nineteenth century. "Those who are prevented from travelling to these sites through illness, lack of funds, or their domestic situation" wrote Félix in the introduction to his 1878 photographic album Egypt and Nubia "have the possibility to go there at their leisure, at low cost and with little effort, to those countries which many have reached only at the risk of their lives". 

In 1878, at the age of 17, Adrien took over the work of photography while his parents ran the studios. As did all large concerns, the firm also hired other photographers to work for them, and the later photographs bearing the Bonfils name are often more professional in their technical execution but less interesting as images. 

At some point Adrien turned his back on photography and became an hotelier in Beirut, his mother taking over the family business until she was forced by war to evacuate Beirut in 1917. For many years it was not known that she had taken many of the images published under the Bonfils imprint. Wife of a photographer, mother of a photographer, and a photographer herself, she once said that she was sick of the smell of albumen. 

G. Lekegian, an Armenian, moved to Cairo from Istabul. He set up a studio in Cairo (1887). Armenians dominated the early photographic industry in Egypt. Few Arabs new anything about photography. Egypt did not have a modern educatioin system and the education that did exist emphasized Islam rather than math and science. Lekegian, rapidly acquired a reputation for the quality of his work. Lekegian ususlly signed his photographs "Photographic Artistique G. Lekegian & Co". This was French based company. He won the Gold Medal at the International Photography Exhibition in Paris in 1892, and the Grand Prize at the International Exhibition in Chicago (1893). His work is an important record of Arab life in Egypt and other North African countries. Some of the best 19th century images of Egypt were produced by Lekegian. His work is found in many major photographic collections. He located his studio, near the legendary Shepheard's Hotel. As his reputsation grew, he turned the area between Qasr al-Nil Street and Opera Square into a golden triangle of Cairo photography. (http://histclo.com/photo/photo/photog/pho-lek.html, 2010-08-23).

Pascal Sebah (1823-1886) was a leading photographer in Constantinople, now the city of Istanbul. Constantinople, composed of many diverse peoples, was the capital of the Ottomon Empire and Sebah's career coincided with intense Western European interest in the "Orient," which was viewed as exotic and fascinating. Constantinopolitan photographers, such as Sebah and Abdullah Freres, had a ready market selling images to tourists -- of the city, ancient ruins in the surrounding area, portraits, and local people in traditional costumes, often holding water pipes. Sebah rose to prominence because of his well-organized compositions, careful lighting, effective posing, attractive models, great attention to detail, and for the excellent print quality produced by his technician, A. Laroche.

Sebah's career was accelerated through his collaboration with the artist, Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910). Osman Hamdi Bey posed models, often dressed in elaborate costumes, for Sebah to photograph. The painter then used Sebah's photographs for his celebrated Orientalist oil paintings. In 1873, Osman Hamdi Bey was appointed by the Ottoman court to direct the Ottoman exhibition in Vienna and commissioned Sebah to produce large photographs of models wearing costumes for a sumptuous album, Les Costumes Populaires de la Turquie. The album earned Sebah a gold medal, awarded by the Viennese organizers, and another medal from the Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz. In that same exceptional year, Sebah opened a branch in Egypt. Sebah's prints are signed P. Sebah.

After Sebah's death, his brother Cosimi ran the studio for a few years. Sebah's son, Johannes (Jean) became involved in the business in 1890, when he was only 16 years old. In that year, Jean formed a partnership with a Frenchman, Policarpe Joaillier, and thereafter the studio was known as Sebah & Joaillier. Some images by Jean are signed J.P. Sebah on the negative, as he began putting his initial in front of his father's. Others from this period are signed Sebah & Joaillier. Joaillier returned to Paris in the early 1900s, but Jean Sebah continued the studio, forming a partnership in 1910 with Hagop Iskender and Leo Perpignani. The latter left the firm in 1914. Jean Sebah and Hagop Iskender retired in 1934, leaving the business to Iskender's son, Bedros Iskender and his partner, Ismail Insel. Ismail Insel eventually became sole partner and renamed the studio Foto Sabah, which remained in business until 1952. [Sabah means "morning" in Turkish.] With all the changes, the studio that Pascal Sebah began in 1857 lasted 95 years.

Pascal Sebah died on June 15, 1886, and, since he was a Catholic, was buried in the Latin cemetery in Ferikoy. His son, Jean, is also buried there. Jean died on June 6, 1947, at the age of 75.

See also Pioneers of Travel Photography 

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