Tap L/R Side of the Slide to Proceed


View Photo Index

Tourism And Cultural Cross-Dressing In The Palestinian Photographic Studios

During the mid to the latter part of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, there was growing interest in the orient with an influx of western tourists making their way to the Near East to visit holy places and sites of antiquity. Many tourists embarked on the grand tour starting in Constantinople leading to places in the holy lands in the Middle East. With the fairly new medium invention of photography, tourists were buying as souvenirs photographs and albums of these historic sites, the majestic architecture, and views of the Orient. They were also captivated by the very exotic and fascinating images of the inhabitants in their traditional costumes often referred to as “types” by the photographers.

Krikorian Studio advertisement for photographs in native Palestinian costumes, ca. 1920 (Malikian Collection)

There was an interesting and growing trend in photo studios around this period which Barbara Bair has labeled as “cultural cross-dressing” whereby tourists, as she noted, “shed western attire and posed for the camera clad in exotic “orientalist” costumes available for the choosing from the studio wardrobes.” In Palestine, “cultural cross-dressing” offered to the tourists a rather playful and romanticized experience of Palestinian culture and tradition. Many of these photographs showcase native Palestinian costumes with the intricate needle work of Palestinian embroidery. The first photo studio established in Jerusalem by Garabed Krikorian, and the many studios that followed such as Johannes Krikorian and Chalil Raad, produced these images of “cultural cross-dressing.”  

Krikorian Studio on Jaffa Road, Jerusalem, Palestine, ca. 1900
(Matson Collection)

Chalil Raad Studio on Jaffa Road, Jerusalem, Palestine, ca. 1930-40
(The Institute for Palestinian Studies)


Bair, Barbara.  The American Colony Photography Department: Western Consumption and “Insider” Commercial Photography. Jerusalem Quarterly 44 (2010): 22-38