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"Revealing the Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of Palestine"
1999-06-08 until 1999-08-28
The Dahesh Museum
New York, NY, USA United States of America

Exquisite 19th century photographs document the modern rediscovery of ancient Palestine (a territory now comprising Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and parts of Syria) by the nations of the West during the first golden age of photography. Organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art from the collection of Michael G. and Jane Wilson, Revealing the Holy Land presents 92 vintage prints and two albums that document a critical moment in the history of photography, the early history of scientific Biblical scholarship, and Britain’s cultural and political involvement in the region.

The images include tightly composed details of architectural assemblies that record layers of occupation of an ancient city, panoramas of the Sinai desert that defy any understanding of scale, iconic views of Jerusalem sought out by visitors today – the Damascus Gate, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – and portraits of people from the region in characteristic costume. Alternately richly detailed and almost eerily barren, this is a stunning representation of the region as it looked over 100 years ago. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a group of 35 photographs taken by Sergeant James McDonald of the British Royal Engineers for their 1864 and 1868 surveys of Jerusalem and the Sinai. They are exhibited as a group for the first time since they were made. Revealing the Holy Land opens with images by the early masters of expeditionary photography, French writer Maxine De Camp (who learned photography in order to travel through the Holy Land), Rev. George Bridges and the Anglo-German banker Ernest Benecke. August Saltzman’s images of Jerusalem from 1856 are considered the first examples of applying photography to the documentation of Biblical archaeology. Bible and Empire are joined in the work of the next generation; Francis Bedford (who accompanied the Prince of Wales to the Middle East), Francis Frith, Frank Mason Goode, and the team of Robertson and Beato. The exhibition was made possible, in part, by grants form the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and the Dana and Albert R. Broccoli Charitable Foundation.

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