مارغريت عبده: مصورة مقدسية رائدة
التاريخ: 
09/06/2023
المؤلف: 

The first school of photography was established in Jerusalem in the early 1860s at the Armenian compound of the Cathedral of Saint James. The very few female photographers in Palestine at the time learned the profession by working as apprentices with well-known male photographers. Two of the first Palestinian female photographers were Karimeh Abbud, who started her professional career in 1913 in Bethlehem, and Margaret (Margo) Abdo, who started her professional career in 1920 in Jerusalem.

Margo was born in 1901 in Jerusalem to a Greek mother (Despina Savvidis, sister of the famous photographer Miltiadi Savvidis) and a Christian Palestinian father (Saba Abdo). She belonged to a well-known Rum Orthodox family in Jerusalem. She had seven siblings. The family lived in a large single-story house on King George Avenue in Jerusalem. She went to the Rum Orthodox School run by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Other than the normal courses at school, she learned the Arabic and Greek languages, and later English and Russian. After graduating from school, she joined her brother David Abdo at his studio on Jaffa Road, a central busy part of Jerusalem. It was next to a well-known stationery store, Standard Stationers, run by Boulos Said. Opposite the studio was the well-known Hotel Fast, built by a German architect in 1891.

Portrait of Margaret Abdo and her brother Daoud Abdo (1922)
All photos by Daoud (David) Abdo, unless identified otherwise.

Studio on Jaffa Road (Matson Collection, LoC)

Initially, she assisted him with general matters in the studio, and with time she became skilled in the profession. After a few years, she became a well-established photographer and devoted a great deal of her work to portrait photography. Apart from that, she also took some group photos on certain occasions outside the studio. She learned how to color black and white prints with watercolors. She also retouched photo negatives to remove any discrepancies on them before printing. Margo took over the running of the studio completely on her own when her brother, David, took the post of Master Photographer at The Palestine Archaeological Museum. She employed an assistant to manage the darkroom work for printing, enlarging, and developing. She concentrated on studio photography, retouching the negatives, and coloring prints. Margo ran the studio from 1930 to 1948. When war ensued, and occupation was imminent, she abandoned the studio leaving the equipment and archives behind. During the 1940s, Margo developed her signature stamp. Whereas Karimeh Abbud signed her photos as مصورة شمس الوطنية (national ‘sun’ photographer), Margo chose to sign with M.S. Abdo.


Two rare photos signed by Margaret Abdo (date unknown)—second picture T. Awad, c. 1949

In Margo Abdo’s photo collection saved by the family in Beirut, there are photographs of her sisters and cousins from the early days of her practice of the profession. There are also self-portraits and others with different members of her family. These photos could have been used as subjects for training. Some of these photos were hand colored. In her portraits, Margo used poses and backgrounds common at the time. For example, showing her clients seated with flowers in their hands. Some of her clients were photographed wearing the national Palestinian attire. Her subjects typically appeared at ease.

She was known as one of the few female portraitists who specialized in photographing women, especially those who preferred not to be photographed by men. She spoke many languages, including Arabic, English, Greek, and Russian. This helped her in her work with locals as well as with the substantial foreign community in Jerusalem.

In 1948, Margo took her aunt Apraxia and migrated to Egypt for a short period, then moved to Lebanon, where part of her family had settled there after the Nakba. In Lebanon, she helped her brother David for a short time to establish his photography shop in Tripoli. She then moved to Beirut and did some babysitting work to cover living expenses. She stayed in Lebanon till her passing in 1974. She was laid to rest at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church cemetery in Ras Beirut.

The following photographs are samples from Margo's work. Most of her work was lost during the Nakba, but some collections are preserved by family and friends outside of Palestine. Many prints are stamped with "M.S. Abdo – Jerusalem."

Margo with her brother David (Self-portrait)


Margo with her siblings in her father’s garden 1926


Awad brothers, Jerusalem c. 1950 (signed by M. S. Abdo), IPS Mushabbik collection


Mushabbik Sisters, Jerusalem, c. 1942 (signed by M. S. Abdo); Margo Abdo and Sister, date unknown


Margo, (Standing row, 4th from L) participating in the Orthodox Society of the Destitute Sick (which later became known as the Four Homes of Mercy), founded by Katherine Hanania Siksek, Old City, Jerusalem, 1924


Margaret taken by her brother David, date unknown


Margaret taken by her brother David, date unknown


Margo (2nd from L) with her siblings in 1924


Margo with her siblings in her parents’ garden


Margo (3rd from R) 1951, at Emile Tamari’s house in Bishmizeen

Margo 1970, with her siblings in Beit Meri

 

 

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