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A new photo exhibition on the "Orientalist" Land of Israel will include images of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness located south of Jerusalem taken from a book by Jerusalem's city engineer, Ermete Pierotti, who lived in Ottoman Palestine between 1854 and 1861.
The photos in the book, however, are more than historical treasures; they were also evidence in the first-ever case of copyright infringement in the Holy Land, when Pierotti, published them and apparently falsely claimed ownership of them. This is because Dr. Nirit Shalev-Khalifa, a researcher at Yad Ben Tzvi who is studying the manuscript, believes they were the work of Mendel Diness, who is known as the first professional photographer in Israel to capture images in natural daylight, and not Pierotti.
Diness, a Jewish watchmaker of Russian origin who settled in Jerusalem, was converted to Christianity by the British consul in Jerusalem, James Finn. Finn's wife, Elizabeth, was one of the pioneers of photography in the Holy Land, and she was apparently the one who introduced Diness to photography. Elizabeth Finn had photography equipment delivered from London, and was assisted by the Scottish photographer James Graham. Diness was Graham's assistant, and according to one theory he was the first to learn photography in the Holy Land, thus earning him the title of the country's first professional photographer.
Pierotti's manuscript will be on display as part of the "Jerusalem Days" conference being conducted at Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi in Jerusalem this week. The full news article can be found here.
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