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HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY IN TURKEY

Photography was one of the major technological discoveries that contributed to the rise of modernity in the 19th century. It was introduced to the lands of the Ottoman Empire by travelers and became widespread in the end of the 19th century. The first professional photography studio in Istanbul was established in 1845 by Italian brothers Carlo and Giovanni Naya. Vasilaki Kargopoulo was the first Ottoman to establish a studio in 1850. Following the 1860s, the number of such studios increased significantly, and they were mainly located around the Pera and Kadıköy districts in Istanbul. Some of the principal photographic studios were operated by Greek Christians and Italians, as well as by photographers of Armenian descent such as Pascal Sebah, Polycarpe Joaillier and the court photographers Abdullah Frères, who opened their studio in 1858 and upon whom were bestowed the title Ressam-ı Hazret-i Şehriyar-i by Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876).

Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909) had an interest in photography and took photographs himself. During his reign, the art of photography developed rapidly in the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan commissioned photographers to document events and principal institutions in the country. In 1884, he ordered Kamil Pasha, Minister of Police, to set up a studio and take photographs of all the prisoners in Istanbul. In 1893 Sultan Abdülhamid II sent 51 photograph albums to the Library of Congress in the United States and 47 photograph albums to the British Museum in England to introduce the Ottoman Empire. In January 1894, Sultan Abdülhamid II ordered a fully equipped photographic studio to be set up in the Yıldız Palace and appointed Ali Rıza Bey as studio director. Sultan Abdülhamid II’s photography albums consist of photographs taken by six photographers showing schools and other scenes in Aleppo, Damascus, Adana, İzmir, Çankırı, Denizli, Baghdad, Edirne, Manisa, Aydın, Bursa, İzmit, Thessalonica, Kastamonu, Trabzon, Beirut and Istanbul. A significant part of these albums can currently be viewed at Istanbul University's Central Library and OIC-Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) archives. More than 8,500 images depicting Turkey can also be found in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC).

Portrait photography was generally preferred by the elite class in the beginning, with the sultans and their families and statesmen having their portrait photos taken. At the end of the 19th century, photography was embraced by other social classes as well.

One of the first Turkish Muslims who opened a photographic studio in Crete was Rahmizade Bahaeddin. He was also active in the first half of the 20th century as a pioneer photographer in Istanbul. There were also Turks active in the photography business in several other cities in Turkey. Kitabi Hamdi Efendi (Bookseller Hamdi), the Turkish owner of a printing house in Trabzon, was publishing his photographs (and those of others,) and he sold cameras as well. Another Turkish photographer and postcard editor who was active from the late 19th century in Trabzon was Osman Nouri. Into the 20th century, numerous Turkish photographers became active in and outside of Turkey.

You can visit the TCF’s online database “Who's Who in Turkish Culture and Art” to see Turkish photographers' profiles.

Reference:
Engin Özendes, Photography in the Ottoman Empire 1839-1923. Istanbul, YEM yayını, 2013.
Bahattin Öztuncay, Dersaadet'in Fotoğrafçıları. Istanbul: Aygaz A. Ş., 2004.

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