Jerusalem in Antique Photography
Casa Árabe and the Diplomatic Mission of Palestine in Spain have
organized this exhibition on the occasion of the International Day of
Solidarity with the Palestinian People. It can be seen from November 29
through December 16, 2018
November 23, 2018
In 1890, Father M.J. Lagrange founded the French Biblical and Archeological School (École Biblique et Archéologique française), which would be devoted to teaching and research about the Bible, in addition to studies on the archeology and geography of the Holy Lands and, in general, Eastern Studies. From the very beginning, the school included trips throughout the Middle East in its research program, and students generally took part in them. These trips were taken in caravans on both camelback and horseback, or on mules and donkeys for shorter journeys, and they led to an extensive collection of epigraphic and archeological photos, as well as pictures of places and landscapes. The students who took part in these yearly “biblical caravans” also took their own photographs as amateurs and in some cases offered them to the Dominicans for inclusion in their collection. The School’s main photographers in its early years were Father Raphaël Savignac (1874-1951) and Father Antonin Jaussen (1871-1962). They are not the only ones but did produce most of the plates, negatives and prints. Both were privileged witnesses to the extraordinary transformation that the Holy Lands underwent from the end of the Ottoman Empire to the modern era.
The Dominican Fathers did not practice photography for exotic or commercial purposes. What gives their collection such special value is that it consists of images taken by professors and researchers who made use of photography in order to illustrate their works. Many of these photographs were used to illustrate scientific arguments in their articles. The whole collection is preserved at the Biblical School - Convent of St. Stephen (legal owner), along with the photographic equipment (cameras, tripods, travel bags and glass plate frames). Though this was not the initial intention, the Convent of St. Stephen has become an important independent archive of the antique photographic collections of Jerusalem.