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Known for Being

The first woman professional photographer in the Arab World.

Major Accomplishments

Karimeh Abbud was the first woman professional photographer in the Arab world. In 1913 on her 17th birthday, she received a camera as a gift from her father. Her interest in photography manifested itself in capturing her family, friends, and the landscapes of Palestine in her hometown of Nazareth. Having travelled often around the country to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Haifa with her father during her early years, she had the opportunity to capture the scenic splendor of the diverse manifestations of Palestinian day-to-day life. Her earliest signed photograph is dated October 1919. Working at home in the early 1920's Abbud began to earn a living photographing women and children. Later on, she ventured into wedding and ceremonial photography, building a diverse portfolio of commissioned work. Soon thereafter, she attended the American University of Beirut (AUB), obtaining a BA in Arabic Literature. During this time she photographed a variety of excavation projects in Lebanon, including Baalbek.

After graduating, she returned to Nazareth, where she quickly became the lead photographer in her town, establishing her own studio in 1930. The photographs she took during this period were stamped in Arabic and English with the words, "Karimeh Abbud- Lady Photographer." In the mid 1930's, Abbud began offering hand-painted copies of studio photographs, of which few samples have survived today. Whereas most photographers brought their subjects to their studios where carefully prepared settings were at hand, Abbud preferred to take portraits at her clients' homes. Using makeshift backgrounds and settings, her subjects stood at ease in front of her camera. Today more than 4,500 studio, home, and outdoor photographs remain preserved by private collectors Ayman Metanis and Ahmad Mrowat. Mrowat's collection of Abbud's works recently surfaced as part of an exhibition at Darat al Funun, Amman in 2006, marking the first instance of a public exhibition of Abbud's work.

Last modified: 01/09/2019

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