Camera Palaestina: Photography and Displaced Histories of Palestine

by Salim Tamari (Author), Issam Nassar (Author), Stephen Sheehi (Author)
First Edition (August 2022)

University of California Press

Series: New Directions in Palestinian Studies

A free open access ebook is available at

About the Book

Camera Palaestina is a critical exploration of Jerusalemite chronicler Wasif Jawhariyyeh (1904–1972) and his seven photography albums entitled The Illustrated History of Palestine. Jawhariyyeh’s nine hundred images narrate the rich cultural and political milieu of Ottoman and Mandate Palestine. Nassar, Sheehi, and Tamari locate this archive at the juncture between the history of photography in the Arab world and the social history of Palestine. Shedding new light on this foundational period, the authors explore not just major historical events and the development of an urban bourgeois lifestyle but a social field of vision of Palestinian life as exemplified in the Jerusalem community. Tracking the interplay between photographic images, the authors offer evidence of the unbroken field of material, historical, and collective experience from the living past to the living present of Arab Palestine.

About the Author

– Issam Nassar is Professor of History at Illinois State University and coeditor of Jerusalem Quarterly. He is the coauthor of The Storyteller of Jerusalem: The Life and Times of Wasif Jawahariyyeh and Gardens of Sand.

– Stephen Sheehi is Sultan Qaboos Professor of Middle East Studies and Director of the Decolonizing Humanities Project at William & Mary. He is coauthor of Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Practicing Resistance in Palestine and author of The Arab Imago: A Social History of Indigenous Photography, 1860–1910.

– Salim Tamari is Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies and Director of its Jerusalem Studies Program. He is also Professor of Sociology, Emeritus at Birzeit University and the author of The Great War and the Remaking of Palestine, Year of the Locust, and The Mountain Against the Sea.


“This book is a brilliant potential history of Palestine, centered on seven photographic albums collected and curated by Wasif Jawhariyyeh from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s. With decolonial commitment and intellectual breadth, the authors turn the photographs into an inalienable entitlement (kawshun) to Palestine, and turn Palestine into an ‘uninterrupted albeit traumatic’ place, whose existence can neither be eradicated by Zionists actions nor erased by European narratives. This is a must-read book for scholars of Palestine and photography.”—Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, author of Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism

“Camera Palaestina offers readers both a rich visual chronicle of Palestinian social and political life in the late Ottoman and British Mandate period and a granular account of the history of photography in Palestine. The story of these archives—with their multiple genres, subjects, and standpoints—highlights the polyvalent terms of Palestinian modernity in the pivotal decades before 1948 while offering the grounds for a new theorization of Palestinian spectatorship as anticolonial practice.”—Rebecca L. Stein, author of Screen Shots: State Violence on Camera in Israel and Palestine

“Who knew that one man’s photographic collection could reveal such a multifaceted picture of a society? Camera Palaestina shows how these photographs, their arrangement, and Wasif Jawhariyyeh’s commentary paint an intriguing picture of Palestinian society before the Nakba, one with more ethical complexity, more religious coexistence (including with Jews), less homogeneity, and above all a society less centered on colonial powers than some may have been led to believe. The three intertwined perspectives on these albums collaborate to trouble notions of ‘the’ Palestinian subject. This is a profound study of the photographic practices of collecting, arranging, and annotating.”—Margaret Olin, author of Touching Photographs

“Camera Palaestina opens a new chapter in the history of photography in the Middle East. Traditionally dominated by analyses of Orientalist photography taken by Europeans and American, the focus shifts to photographers from the region. This unique book covers Palestine’s political, social, and cultural history from an underrepresented perspective during times of critical transformation.”—Zeynep Çelik, author of Displaying the Orient and Urban Forms of Colonial Confrontations

“This book captures one of the most critical contributions of the growing field of the visual cultures of the Arab region and Palestine in particular: the idea that found images are in and of themselves telling of the ways in which colonial regimes of visuality, like orientalism, were unknowingly countered in everyday practices of those that lived them. Camera Palaestina demands that we look beyond the gaze and into the lived experiences of those Indigenous image makers that collected material about their political and social lives on their own terms.”—Hanan Toukan, author of The Politics of Art: Dissent and Cultural Diplomacy in Palestine Lebanon and Jordan

“Centering the Jawhariyyeh memoirs and photographic albums, this book is an impressive collaborative work of three scholars from different fields. Thoroughly contextualizing historical images and commentary through the temporalities in which they exist, the authors foreground the continuities of Palestinian life, including presences and absences, tensions and contradictions.”—Annelies Moors, Professor Emerita, University of Amsterdam