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Fouad Debbas (1930-2001) may be Lebanon's best-known collector. It's said his obsession with accumulation was sparked one day in 1975, when the businessman was walking through Paris and stumbled upon an album of 50 old postcards depicting 19th-century Lebanese landscapes. By the time he passed away, Debbas had amassed a collection of 45,000 images – some 22,000 postcards, 20,000 original prints (both individual pictures and whole albums of photos), 2,000 slides and negatives and 1,000 stereoscopic (3D-like) images – of Lebanon and "Geographical Syria". The Debbas Collection is thought to be the largest private collection of its kind in the world.It has also been used for several exhibitions, most notably at Paris' Institut du Monde Arabe.Traces of Debbas' obsession are nowadays featured in "Un Siecle d'Illustrations a l'Epreuve du Rire" (A Century of Illustrations for Laughter), an exhibition of works from the Debbas Collection now up at the French Cultural Center's Espace Montaigne.The show portrays a Lebanon that no longer exists ... or does it?
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