Reframing Palestine: The Story of the American Colony Photo Department
In 1886, a sect of Swedish immigrants to America immigrated to Jerusalem in anticipation of the End Times. In 1896, a second Swedish group of millennials traveled directly from Sweden to the now established American colony in Jerusalem. One new convert to millennialism who joined the Colony established a photo department. His first assignment was to document early Zionist settlements at the request of Theodor Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization. Between 1897 and 1934, the American Colony provided a half-century’s documentation of persons, places and events, and the photo collection is now considered the most prestigious in the Middle East. The American Colony’s store was near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. Steamships docked at the port of Jaffa about 30 miles away and the tourists traveled to Jerusalem, where many assembled their own photo albums at the American Colony Store to be bound and shipped as coffee table momentos of their visits. Many groups are now rushing to rediscover photos in Swedish attics, behind walls in Jerusalem, and at the Library of Congress. Director Orna Raviv and Producer Itay Ken-Tor are right behind them.
The filmmakers will create a space on the web for scholars and institutions to post or link to their own research on the American Colony, and plan to create a an interactive platform that invites viewers to construct their own films from the photo archive. Raviv will use light, lenses and digital resolution in order to draw viewers’ attentions to easily missed details in the photos, and she will also tell the story of each photographer behind the images.
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