National Geographic : 1927 Dec
COLOR RECORDS FROM THE CHANGING LIFE OF THE HOLY CITY BY MAYNARD OWEN WILLIAMS F ORTUNATE the man who can help to preserve something of the life of the Holy City. More for- tunate is he who can record in natural colors bright spots in the life of a city whose appeal is world-wide. He must approach his task with sym pathy and reverence, for his model is loved and idealized by Moslems from the Near and Far East, Sunday-school teachers from the Far West, and Jews from half the world. Unless he pictures with understanding the city where world brotherhood was proclaimed, he may en gender dissension. The pictured city must ever remain the Holy City. Neither brush nor camera has fully recorded the color of Jerusalem. From blinding light to gloom runs the bright ribbon of oriental life, now vivid and moving, now stilled in tone and tempo by the murk of arched tunnel or the peace of quiet mosque. In ever-changing sun shine and shadow, no two eyes see the same, no two brains retain like memories. Before the World War, Jerusalem was my vacation home, the lodestone of my dreams, its bustling life a constant chal lenge to my untrained lens. At Easter time and in the heat of summer I haunted favorite corners, marking the sun's path along the Via Dolorosa, begging Arab, Jew, and Christian to pose for an instru ment whose very look they dreaded, or trying to separate from mobs of pilgrims the brocaded robes of sectarian princes. Fierce contrasts of light, the passive resistance of those to whom the picturing of a human face is anathema, the stiff ness Orientals show before a camera, so different from the freedom of their un studied life-a thousand drawbacks could not down the desire to share with home land friends the never-ending charms of this shrine of beauty and of dreams. But each time I returned I found the Holy City changed. Where queenly peas ant women had stalked along, their tat tooed faces shaded by wide trays of vege tables, short-skirted cosmopolites carried parasols to save their complexions. Derby was replacing tarboosh, and trousers the flowing robes that still made desert men seem Biblical. Here was a city, sacred to Moslem, Jew, and Christian, losing the character for which it had been distinguished for centuries. I longed to record something of it before it was too late. Then came an unparalleled opportunity. A friend who knew of the National Geo graphic Society's efforts to preserve the very colors of a changing world was made governmental head of Jerusalem. Mere authority could not have broken down the barriers. Not even the District Commissioner could order a rabbi to sit for his portrait or a Moslem girl to risk the criticism of the ignorant or the un friendly. But Major Keith-Roach (see "The Pageant of Jerusalem," pages 635 681) had established relations of friend ship with all classes and sects, and he undertook to enlist the cooperation of those individuals shown in autochrome in succeeding pages. Moslem and Jew and Christian eagerly collaborated to record something precious in oriental life that is slowly fading. PRINCES POSE FOR THEIR COLOR PORTRAITS One cannot ask an ecclesiastical prince to take his priceless jewels and rich bro cades away from his residence, and, since color photographs require sixty times the amount of light of ordinary portraits, he could not be pictured inside his palace. At the Orthodox Patriarchate, the one spot determined by the position of the sun and the age of my model was on a balcony outside his rooms. To pose in the full heat of a June sun is trying work; so I focused on another churchman, and when His Beatitude stood on the same spot, I exposed two plates so quickly that he was amazed to learn that the ordeal was over (Plate VI). The Latin Patriarch (Plate II) was also photographed on a narrow balcony, but with the head of the Abyssinian Church I was more fortunate. The mon astery of these Christians from near the Equator is on the roof of the Chapel of St. Helena, Roman empress and Chris tian patron. The Superior (Plate I) awaited me with eight gorgeously gowned attendants. Brocades and jewels made a striking confusion of details.