Jerusalem Photographers

A new exhibition named “The Camera Man – Women and Men Photograph Jerusalem 1900-1950” opened on May 2016 in the Tower of David Museum. The exhibition shows photographs of the major photographers who lived and worked in Jerusalem during the first half of the twentieth century. The photographs were collected from different sources, among them the CZA. The Photograph Collection of the CZA contains collections of important photographers who operated in Palestine and documented its day to day life, starting from the end of the 19th century.
The first half of the twentieth century in Jerusalem was most eventful: the Ottoman Empire gave way to British rule, the members of the new Yishuv went out of the boundaries of the Old Yishuv, and the Jewish-Arab conflict broke out in full force. The exhibition takes a look at this complex and fascinating city and presents the visual work of the photographers who worked here, illustrating how they saw the city, and how the city was reflected in their work.
Table set with the flags of Seaford unit Highlanders (Scottish regiments) at King David Hotel, toward a meeting of the battalions, Jerusalem, 1934. Photographer: Zvi Oron (NZO\630526)
The exhibition displays photos from the CZA collections. Each photographer documented Jerusalem in his own unique way. Zvi Oron (Orushkes) started his career at the Jewish National Fund, but he is best remembered for the years he photographed for the Mandate Administration. In 1929 he was officially appointed by the High Commissioner, Sir John Chancellor, as the photographer of the British Mandate Government in Palestine, a title that gave him unprecedented access to British officials and military facilities. Oron also documented British leisure in Palestine: sports competitions and lavish cocktail parties. Even less flashy events were documented: clashes between Jews and Arabs in Palestine and their impact on the British authority.
Yaacov Ben-Dov came to Palestine in 1907 from Kiev. He studied at Bezalel Art School and then established the Photography Department there. Ben-Dov is considered the father of Hebrew movies in Palestine. His first motion picture documented the entry of General Allenby into Jerusalem on 1917. Thereafter, once a year he filmed a documentary about life in Palestine. The Jewish National Fund and Keren Hayesod used his movies to raise funds for the Zionist enterprise.
A general view of Jerusalem, 1945. Photographer: Tim Gidal (NTG\701359)
Tim Gidal was one of the first journalist photographers. He documented historical events around the world and also Jewish settlements in Palestine during the Mandate. Gidal used motifs from art and developed the concept of spontaneous documentary photography.
Zadok Bassan is apparently the first Jewish photographer who was born in Jerusalem. He began his work as a photographer on 1900. He mainly photographed the Old Yishuv, but he also photographed the New Yishuv. As a son of an Orthodox family, he became the "official" photographer of the Orthodox community in Jerusalem. Many of his photographs were taken at the Diskin Orphanage and were sent to donors.
Hanukkah party at the Diskin Orphanage. Photographer: Zadok Bassan (GNZB\401501)
The exhibition displays photographs of Arab photographers too. A few photographs taken by Chalil Rissas were found at the General Photograph Collection of the CZA. Rissas was born to an Arab-Cristian family in Jerusalem. He sent his photographs to various newspapers during the 1940's and documented the fighting of the Arabs. His photographs can be found in various sources, among them the Haganah Archives and the IDF Archives.
Hamutal Wachtel, associate curator of the exhibition, says that "The Museum tries to tell the story of Jerusalem each time from a different angle and a different medium. This time it was decided to focus on photographers who worked in Jerusalem and documented it using their camera." She tells about the preparation for the exhibition: "We started mapping photographers through books, newspapers, phone books and information we got from experts and collectors. The search for photographs was conducted in various archives, and amongst collectors and individuals, including offspring of photographers. After the search we chose 33 photographers who worked in Jerusalem during this period."

The exhibition closes on December 10th, 2016.