Saturday, 5 April 2008

Palestinian fighters, Saida 1968

Picture: Arab Image Foundation collection


Leila said...

So is there a grad student or art historian somewhere doing a study on the history of these photographic portraits? My family has a photograph of my grandfather taken in a Saida studio circa 1910 or so; he is dressed in "Turkish" clothes - costume from the photographer. Something about the stance and the whole project reminds me of this portrait. (Were these young men posing in their own clothing, or is the combat gear a costume? At first glance I assumed they were in their own clothes, but then I wondered if the photographer had accessories available, or the young men brought along borrowed items?)

It's not my field at all, I'm just suggesting - somebody needs to do a critical survey of this sort of portrait. Not just of young warriors but of all such portraits - shebab posing. Why do young men commission them? What is the significance of the costume? What did they do with these portraits?

If you only looked at portraits of Palestinian fighters from the era, without looking at all the portraits coming out of local photographers' studios, from the beginning of commercial photography to the present, you would be missing a larger cultural story.

Leila said...

And p.s. - while my grandfather posed in Turkish costume during the Ottoman era, he also fought on the barricades of Sidon against the Turks according to family legend. Whenever anyone showed me the portrait, they would excuse him for wearing the treacherous Turkish outfit - because it was the fashion in those days, they said. He had no love for the Turks!

I think this kind of shifting view of warrior/occupier costume is in itself interesting... Forty years later I'm sure the families of the shebab are not making excuses for their outfits, but I do wonder about the family stories that arise around these portraits.

Anthropologists, sociologists, art history theorists - have at it!

Lebanese socialist said...

Thanks Leila... could you send me more on the story of grandfather (plus pic) and any other recolections of the events in Saida?

I'm gathering these stories for the Shemali history post (

There is a fantastic collection of these images on the Arab Image Foundation (

The site is undergoing an update so not all the images are availble. But the ones I have seen are a facinating photo-history of Lebanon.