bookbinder from St-Hippolyte-du-Fort, Bonfils travels to Lebanon
in 1861 and 1864. He returns infatuated with the beauty of the country.
in photography by Niepce de St Victor, nephew of Nicephore Niepce,
and encouraged to specialize in heliography, Bonfils opens a photography
studio in 1865 in Ales in southern France.
1867 Bonfils moves to Beirut with his wife and son, where he begins
his photographic career. During the next four years he produces
an extraordinary collection of 15,000 prints from 591 negatives
and 9000 stereoscopic views. His images are of Greece, Syria, Palestine
and Egypt. He uses the wet collodion on glass process to capture
monuments, landscapes and portraits. His wife, Marie-Lydie plays
a large role in photographing female subjects. The Maison Bonfils
is well known for commercial portraits and expands to branches in
Jerusalem, Baalbek, Alexandria and Cairo.
1871 Bonfils presents his work to the S.F.P. (Societe Francaise
de Photographie) and in 1872 publishes an album entitled Architecture
Antique (Ducher press) in Paris. By 1876 he is back
in Ales, where he undertakes his most ambitious work: a series of
albums entitled Souvenirs d'Orient, sold on demand by his agents
in Paris, Basel, London, Jerusalem...
receives a medal at the Paris Expo of 1878, and in Brussels in 1883.
In 1880 he opens a shop for photographic reproduction (phototypie)
in Ales where he dies in 1885. Karl Baedeker's 1894 travel guidebook
gives the Bonfils photographic dealership in Beirut special mention.
photography of Bonfils is comparable in its sensibility, beauty
and documentary value to that of archeologists and early travel