[permaculture] A collection of 3, 000 photographs produced in the Middle East by the Maison Bonfils, from 1867 to the 1910s. (for those interested in finding examples of permaculture practice, indigenous and municipal, throughout history)

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Sun Aug 24 16:38:50 EDT 2014

A collection of 3,000 photographs produced in the Middle East by the Maison
Bonfils, from 1867 to the 1910s. (for those interested in finding examples
of permaculture practice, indigenous and municipal,  throughout history)

EAP644: The Fouad Debbas Collection: assessment and digitisation of a
precious private collection. Photographs from Maison Bonfils (1867-1910s),
Beirut, Lebanon

The aim of this project is to clean, list, index, catalogue and digitise a
collection of 3,000 photographs produced in the Middle East by the Maison
Bonfils, from 1867 to the 1910s.
The 3,000 items consist of albumen prints gathered in albums and
portfolios, glass plates, stereos, cabinet cards and cartes de visite. They
are part of the general Fouad Debbas Collection, which contains more than
40,000 photographs. The objective is to undertake a survey, and increase
access to and visibility of this most valuable and endangered collection.
The Fouad Debbas Bonfils collection is the most extensive, varied and
richest photographic collection produced in the Levant at the end of the
Ottoman period. It is in fact one of the very few photographic collections
produced in Beirut from the late Ottoman period which are still preserved.
Established in 1867 in Beirut, the Bonfils house set out the first
photographic studio in Beirut and established photography as a business. As
such Mr Bonfils, his wife Lydie, (apparently the first woman photographer
of the whole area at that time) and children, all succeeded in capturing a
region of immense physical beauty (the landscape photos of Beirut and
Baalbeck), of varied ethnic composition (various portraits), and of rapid
socio-economic change, at a crucial moment of the region’s history. The
Bonfils Debbas collection is clearly an invaluable document registering the
history of a region at a crucial crossroads in the wake of great historical
upheaval which was about to sweep the region and bring about the Modern
Middle East as we know it.
The Fouad Debbas Collection contains approximately 3,000 items signed by
Bonfils between the 1867 studio creation and the 1910s when Lydie Bonfils
worked in the family’s Beirut studio for some time after her son abandoned
the trade in the early 1900s. This Bonfils collection gathered 62 albums
including the 7 famous “Mansell Albums” (approx.1966 photographs); 24
portfolios with approximately 720 photographs from Bonfils; 90 stereoscopic
views; a hundred glass plates; 32 cabinet cards and “cartes de visite”.
While Fouad Debbas was passionate about research and identifying, for
example, a chronology for stamps and signatures by Bonfils, he was not very
concerned with preservation and some of this valuable material is now
The Fouad Debbas Bonfils collection faces many risks. Disassociation of the
collection is an emergency situation, and the Bonfils sample is a very
representative case. After Fouad Debbas passed away in 2001, the two
remaining brothers took over ownership of the collection. The entire
collection is housed in a commercial building, with no institutional
guarantees for future. The two owners have not yet created a foundation or
any structure to protect this heritage of such great value that documents
culture, tradition, customs, skills and arts of the Middle East from the
pre-industrialism period.
The lack of a database facilitates neither the manager of the collection
nor scholars to find a photograph among the 40,000 items. Although the
Fouad Debbas Collection is often asked for loans in international
exhibitions, finding the right images is a real challenge, since no proper
inventory or database exists. Digital preservation standards and directives
concerning manipulation as well as the verification of information
contained in captions (title, techniques) should be conducted. The creation
of a proper database will facilitate preservation and access to the
collection. Where necessary, some documents will be rehoused.
Lebanon, and the region at large, lacks any serious governmental structures
and institutions capable of protecting and preserving the region’s cultural
heritage. Only Bonfils and other photographers’ witnesses remain, where
property developers replace traditional workshops and activities of our
region. Moreover, the Damocles sword of a new armed conflict haunting
Lebanon and the instability of the region, with the current war in Syria in
particular, are so many risks that threaten the Lebanese and Middle Eastern
heritage.  [show less]
In this context, the Fouad Debbas Collection would at least remain “alive”,
at least as a digital copy in a Lebanese university and in the British
Library. We believe that the efforts of one man to gather the memory of
this region should not be lost forever.



3000 photos of Palestine before Israel existed are online#751 in /r/all (
submitted 7 hours ago by sheasie to /r/worldpolitics

Lawrence F. London
lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Skype: lawrence.f.london

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