Félix Bonfils was born in St. Hippolyte du Fort in France in 1831. Originally a bookbinder, in 1860 he enlisted and was sent to the Levant. He liked Lebanon and when his young son Adrien (born 1860) developed respiratory problems, he decided to emigrate. In 1867 the Bonfils family moved to the dry climate of Beirut and opened a photographic studio there. Félix photographed extensively throughout Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Greece. His work is infused with a sense of exploration and love for his medium. The Maison Bonfils eventually became a large, successful business with branches in Cairo, Alexandria and France. The studio was famous for its Middle Eastern views, and profited from the enormous popularity of organized tours that had opened up tourism in the latter half of the nineteenth century. “Those who are prevented from travelling to these sites through illness, lack of funds, or their domestic situation” wrote Félix in the introduction to his 1878 photographic album Egypt and Nubia ”have the possibility to go there at their leisure, at low cost and with little effort, to those countries which many have reached only at the risk of their lives.
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