The Damascus Gate.
Félix Bonfils (1831-1885) was a French photographer and writer who was active in the Middle East. He was born in Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort and died in Alès. Félix worked as a bookbinder but in 1860 he joined General d'Hautpoul's expedition to the Levant. Soon after returning from Lebanon he became a photographer. The family moved to Beirut in 1867 where they opened a photographic studio called "Maison Bonfils". Four years later Felix reported the results of what must have been staggering labor: 15,000 prints of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Greece, and 9,000 stereoscopic views. Those negatives were made on glass plates, coated with a collodion solution sensitised with silver nitrate. The plates had to be prepared on the spot-usually in a tent in the Middle East. Then they were exposed and developed immediately afterwards. Prints could be made later, quite literally by sunlight: paper impregnated with a silver salt solution was stretched against the glass plate in a frame, and then exposed out of doors under direct sunlight.
Though the prints, golden in tone, were beautiful, the photographers had to use egg white, or albumen, as a binding agent on the paper and this eventually became unpleasant since the Bonfils family apparently prepared the egg-white themselves. Lydie Bonfils, Felix's wife, in 1917 was heard to mutter, 'I never want to smell another egg again,' and supposedly forbade them at her breakfast table thereafter.
Albumen print. 230 x 290 mm. Pasted on original card. Title in negative, manuscript title on card; light spotting, card margins chipped.
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