Félix Bonfils

Félix Bonfils (Mar 8, 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”.

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. Their studio became “F. Bonfils et Cie” in 1878. Bonfils took photographs in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Greece and Constantinople.

In 1872 he published the album Architecture Antique 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.