Revealing the Holy Land
The Photographic Exploration of Palestine
25 Feb - 7 May 2000

ArchwaySergeant James McDonald, Archway on the Ascent to Jebel Músá at Which Pilgrims Were Formerly Confessed, 1868-1869.

In the nineteenth century, Palestine existed for Europe as an idea, at once glorious and obscure, mighty and fallen. Traders and envoys visited, but few travellers or pilgrims subjected themselves to the arduous journey. Those who did almost invariably contrasted its former prosperity as the land of milk and honey to its current state of desolation. The more religious saw in these circumstances a punishment for the crime of the Crucifixion.

Photographers journeyed to the Holy Land to capture permanent images of that ancient region almost from the inception of photography. This exhibition focuses on the photographic exploration of Palestine and Jerusalem from the 1850s through the 1880s and on the photographers who ventured there. Through their photographs, a portrait of this complex, mysterious, sometimes forbidding region emerges.

Drawn largely from the extensive photographic collection of Michael and Jane Wilson, these rarely exhibited images are not only historically and culturally important, they are remarkable photographs, at once evocative and haunting. The core of the exhibition is the work of Colour-Sergeant James McDonald, who accompanied the Royal Engineers on their 1864 and 1868 surveys of Jerusalem and the Sinai.