Faces of the Levant

The photographs below were, to the best of my understanding, taken and compiled in the few years that preceded 1905. They were originally published by a now defunct French publishing house in a handful of photography books covering what then referred to as “The Holy Land”. Today, the territories are what we would refer to as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. Although, the majority of the pictures seem to have been taken in Palestine.
In their entirety, there were over 400 images varying from landscapes to houses of worship to, simply, the faces of local populations. It was this latter category that I spent most of my time collecting and labeling, as best I could.
It is not unusual that these photographs of individuals drew my attention more than anything else. I found, without realizing, that I spent several hours studying the faces of these men and women, wondering of their routines and pastimes and hopes and fears. I even contemplated what their names might have been.
What occurred to me while reviewing these photographs, and guessing at the stories behind them, was how seldom we meditate on our histories outside of the context of politics. It seems the images we are often fixated with are those of our exile, wars, and strife. But even as I attempted to examine the collection removed from any of these pervasive themes, I found that my mind kept wandering back to them, as though subconsciously compelled. Perhaps these subjects cannot be untied.
The few photographs of children in Palestine struck me especially; I considered whether perhaps they had reached their dotage only to discover the grief of being cast as refugees. Or if death had spared them the hardships of exile. 
It is my hope that these photographs will serve as further reaffirmation of our struggles, histories, and peoples.
Talal Alyan
Talal is a Palestinian-American writer based in Brooklyn. He tweets here.
Photos are identified by file name.
#2 Gaza Inhabitants Assyrian Women Bedouin Sheik Bethlehem Girls Bethlehem Merchants Selling Rosaries Bethlehem Woman Selling Fruit Bethlehem Woman Children of Nazareth Damascus Residents Elderly Man from Lebanon Gaza Inhabitants Greek Monks in Jerusalem Jericho Resident Jericho Woman Selling Milk Jerusalem Residents with Leprosy Jewish Rabbi in Jerusalem Mosque Keeper in Palestine Muslim Day School in Syria Muslim Keepers of Holy Sepulchre Church Muslim Sheikh Palestinian Bedouin Palestinian Children in Jersusalem during Winter Palestinian Children of al-Bireh Palestinian Children of Haifa Palestinian Derviches Palestinian Family Palestinian Jewish Family in Tiberias Palestinian Jews of Jerusalem Palestinian Man Carrying Water on His Back Palestinian Pilgram Guide Palestinian Street Vendors Palestinian Women Santon Seminary students in Jerusalem practicing instruments Staff Merchant on Road to Jericho Syrian Muslims in Prayer Syrian Pilgrim Guide Young Lebanese Girl Young Lebanese Woman Young Palestinian Jewish Woman Young Woman from Nablus

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