The Fouad Debbas Collection

The Fouad Debbas Collection (TFDC) is a private collection of postcards and photographs from the Ottoman and French mandate periods in the Middle East, covering over one hundred years from 1830-1960. The collection, assembled over twenty-six years, comprises about 35,000 images. These include approximately 16,000 postcards, 15,000 original prints (as individual prints, cabinet cards and cartes de visite or prints mounted in albums), 600 stereographs, as well as 500 slides or glass plate negatives and positives. Documents, such as letters dating from the 1860s, engravings and drawings from the first half of the 19th century, and manuscripts containing images, are also conserved in The Fouad Debbas Collection. The documents deal mostly with the beginning of photography in the Middle East and especially in Lebanon, during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The photographs originate largely from professionals who had their studio in Beirut, Jerusalem, Constantinople or Cairo, such as Sebah (1823-1886) in Constantinople and Cairo, Charlier (1822-1907) and Dumas (1830-1905) in Beirut, and Beato (ca.1835-1906) in Luxor. The collection also holds an important collection of Bonfils photographs by Félix, father (1831-1885), Adrien, son (1861-1929), and Lydie, Félix’s wife (1837-1918). Based in Beirut from 1867 to the 1910s, the French Bonfils studio can be considered the most prolific producer of images of the Middle East for the European market. Other holdings include early photographs of the monuments of Egypt and Palestine by the likes of Nau de Champlouis (1833-1978), Frith (1822-1898) or Bedford (1816-1894), as well as aerial views taken by the French aviation in the 1920s-1940s, with a focus on archeological sites and city views. The collection is catalogued and partly available on the website. TFDC is the subject of exhibitions in Lebanon and abroad as well as a number of publications by Fouad C. Debbas: Beirut Our Memory, an illustrated tour in the old city from 1880 to 1930 (ed. Folios, 1986, reed.1994); Des photographes à Beyrouth 1840-1918 (ed. Marval, 2001); Early photographs of Mount Lebanon (ed. Folios, 1996), and Voyages en Orient, Journal de la Comtesse de Perthuis, 1853-1855 et 1860-1862 (ed. Dar An-Nahar, 2007).

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