Model Role Details

Hanna Safieh

Hanna Safieh

Sector : Cultural Figures , Artists

Personal Info

  • Country of residence: Palestine
  • Gender: Male
  • Born in: 1910
  • Age: 105
  • Curriculum vitae :


Born in 1910 to a Palestinian Arab family from Jerusalem, Hanna Safieh was one of the few Palestinians at the time to take up photography as a profession. Growing up in the city of his birth, Safieh saw his country ruled by many conquerors. At the time of his birth, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire; he subsequently saw it fall under British rule, Jordanian rule, and Israeli occupation. As a photographer living in Jerusalem from the years before World War I until some thirty years after the creation of the state of Israel in the land of historical Palestine, Safieh was, indeed, in a privileged situation to document the events that shaped the current history of the area. And it is obvious from his pictures that he took full advantage of the opportunity before him, for a significant part of the photographic collection that he left behind documents some of the most important historical events during his lifetime. They bear testimony to the life of Palestinians under the British Mandate (1917-1948), Jordanian rule (1948-1967), and the Israeli occupation (from 1967). Soon after Hanna Safieh‘s photographic profession took off, he started working at the American Colony photographic department in Jerusalem. There Safieh worked as an apprentice to the Swedish photographer Eric Matson (1888-1977), with whom he collaborated until the end of Matson‘s career in Palestine in 1946. During the last few year of British rule in Palestine, Safieh was employed by the Mandate government as a Public Information Officer. Working as a photographer for the government provided him with ample opportunity to capture the events that were taking place around him. However, only a handful of these pictures are known to us today. Most of his photographic collection dating from before 1948 was stolen from his studio in Jerusalem in the aftermath of the 1967 War. A number of his photographs from that period survived, however, because they had been published abroad in a number of newspapers and journals. The National Geographic Magazine, the Readers Digest, the London News and the Associated Press Services were among his many customers. A photograph that he took in the 1930s even made it to the British Parliament. It showed a group of Palestinian women in a demonstration near the New Gate of the Old City, taking off their shoes to fend against the British troops who were trying to stop them. Following the publication of the photograph in question, the Parliament ordered an investigation into the entire affair.

Hanna Safieh died in 1979. His photographic vision, however, remains with us. Not only was he one of the few who has made it hard for others to ignore what Palestinian photographers have produced, but he was also a witness to history in the making. His work is an important testimony to the modern history of Palestine and captures vividly many of the events that shaped the image that we have of ourselves as well as our sense of identity.


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