1900 - 1920s
A magazine advertisement in German from the 1910s informs us that Joseph Toumayan’s Jerusalem studio was founded in 1907 and was located opposite the French embassy in Palestine.(1) The notice also presented Toumayan as an official photographer to the Spanish king and prominently featured one of the major attractions of the studio – its large selection of colorful Bedouin costumes and props. Offered by almost all other Armenian and Arab photographers based in Jerusalem such as Garabed Krikorian and Chalil Raad, the ethnic ‘dress-up’ portraiture was a service popular both with tourists and local middle classes alike. This bread-and-butter operation, which had little to distinguish it from the work of his competitors, was supplemented by Toumayan with photographic views of Jerusalem, historical monuments, landscapes, ethnographic types and other types of commercial work.
Though they adhere to the general pictorial conventions of the time, Toumayan’s elegantly composed street scenes mark a transition from the earlier, more judicial perspectives of the Biblical sites. With their distinctly romanticist and even pictorialist sensibility, these images prefigure the elegiac mood of the documentary series on Jerusalem by latter Palestenian-Armenian photographers such as Elia Kahvedjian.
It is not known how long the studio survived, but it seemed to have wound up its operations by the 1930s. During the 1910s Toumayan partnered with A. Haschadour and, for a brief time around 1913, with the Jewish art photographer Shlomo
Narinsky (1885-1960).(2) It is likely that Narinsky’s painterly and highly aesthetic approach to landscape photography significantly influenced Toumayan’s practice in latter years.
1) For a reproduction of the advertisement see Issam Nassar, ‘Photography as Source Material for Jerusalem’s Social History’ in Camille Mansour, Walid Khalidi et al (eds.), Transformed Landscapes: Essays on Palestine and the Middle East in Honor of Walid Khalidi, American University of Cairo Press, 2009, p.144
2) Ken Jacobson, Odalisques & Arabesques: Orientalist Photography 1839-1925, Quaritch, London, 2007, p.256
Palestine, Ottoman Empire
Photographie de la Palestine
artistic, studio, documentary
Issam Nassar, ‘Photography as Source Material for Jerusalem’s Social History’ in Camille Mansour, Walid Khalidi et al (eds.), Transformed Landscapes: Essays on Palestine and the Middle East in Honor of Walid Khalidi, American University of Cairo Press, 2009, pp.137-158
Joseph Malikian Collection