Magazine article Geographical

The Palestinians: Photographs of a Land and Its People from 1839 to the Present Day

Magazine article Geographical

The Palestinians: Photographs of a Land and Its People from 1839 to the Present Day

Article excerpt

THE PALESTINIANS: Photographs of a Land and its People from 1839 to the Present Day

by Elias Sanbar, Editions Hazan/Yale University Press, 35 [pounds sterling] (hardback)

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Europeans took many photographs of Palestine during the 19th century but, according to Elias Sanbar, real life was almost always missing. Pictures of buildings and archaeological sites stoked arguments about Biblical accuracy. The locals were also sometimes snapped but such photos were usually staged and produced a repetitive catalogue of local ethnic and social 'types'. Westerners brought their obsessions and preconceptions with them. Only occasionally did authentic glimpses of local life enter the frame. Someone strolled into view at just the right (or, from the photographer's perspective, wrong) moment.

Later on, pilgrimage and tourism never vanished but, for the most part, Palestine became famous as the home of a tortuous political process. The images of life under the British Mandate are plentiful and reveal a truly puzzling society. …

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