Félix Bonfils

Félix Bonfils
Born (1831-03-08)8 March 1831
Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort, France
Died 9 April 1885(1885-04-09) (aged 54)
Alès, France
Nationality French
Occupation Photographer
Years active especially from 1867 to his death
Known for early Middle East photography
Photo of an Arab man with a pipe, taken by Félix Bonfils.
A photograph taken by Bonfils of Bedouin women carrying their children.

Félix Bonfils (8 March 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. When his son Adrien fell ill, Félix remembered the green hills around Beirut and sent him there to recover, being accompanied by Marie-Lydie Cabanis Bonfils, Félix's wife. The family moved to Beirut in 1867 where they opened a photographic studio called "Maison Bonfils".[1][2]

Maison Bonfils produced thousands of photographs of the Middle East. They photographed posed scenes, dressed up in Middle Eastern regalia, and also stories from the Bible.[1] Their studio became "F. Bonfils et Cie" in 1878. Bonfils took photographs in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Greece and Constantinople (now Istanbul).[2]

In 1872 he published the album Architecture Antique (by Ducher press) after presenting some of his pictures to the Société française de photographie. His work became well known for the tourists that travelled to those countries because they bought their photos as souvenirs. He later opened another studio in Alès (France).

Panoramic photography

After settling in the Near East, Bonfils took some panoramic photographs of Constantinople and Damascus.[3]

Further reading

”The Image of the East: Nineteenth-Century Near-Eastern Photographs by Bonfils” by Gavin (Carney E.S.). From the Collection of the Harvard Semitic Museum, Chicago/London. University of Chicago Press, 1982.


  1. 1 2 "Aerial Panoramic View of Beirut". World Digital Library. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  2. 1 2 Szegedy-Maszak, Andrew (May–June 2001). "The Genius of Félix Bonfils". Archaeology. 54 (3).
  3. "Collections Search Center, Smithsonian Institution". Collections.si.edu. Retrieved 2013-10-20.
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