Armenians and Armenian Photographers in the Ottoman Empire


Julia Grimes, research associate at the Getty Research Institute, presents a remarkable variety of images through the Pierre de Gigord Collection detailing Armenian life in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, numerous through the studio of Armenian photographers Pascal Sebah together with Abdullah Freres.

Taking advantage of the continued generosity of French picture collector Pierre de Gigord, the Getty analysis Institute (GRI) has put together a thorough number of pictures documenting the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, particularly the region which we realize now as Turkey. An increasing number of these photographs depict the Armenian community in the kingdom, representing spiritual leaders, families, and folks in complete cultural gown. Besides those staying in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), the Ottoman money and precise location of the major photographic studios, particular images additionally record details of life in other urban centers, including valuable views of the Armenian quarters.

J. Pascal Sebah (Armenian, 1823-1886), Armenian Patriarch, ca. 1880. Los Angeles, Getty Analysis Institute (96.R.14, Box 80)

J. Pascal Sebah (Armenian, 1823-1886), Armenian Family, ca. 1880. L . A ., Getty Analysis Institute (96.R.14, Box 80)

Photographie Tchamlidjian Studio (Armenian, active ca. 1880), Group of Armenian Men in Checkered Jackets, 1883. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute (96.R.14, Box 69)

Guillaume Berggren (Swedish, 1835-1920), Entry towards the principal Street of Pera, ca. 1870. L . A ., Getty Analysis Institute (2008.R.3, No. 3547)

Probably the most fascinating facet of the Gigord collection could be the amount of pictures taken by Armenian photographers. Because of the regular work of Armenians as chemists, goldsmiths, and pharmacists, numerous possessed the relevant skills needed for photography, in specific an extensive familiarity with the chemical processes utilized in development. Some of the principal studios in Constantinople were owned and operated by photographers of Armenian descent during the late-nineteenth century. Pascal Sebah, for example, opened his “El Chark” studio in 1857, and by 1873 had accomplished success that is such their elegant, crisply step-by-step portraits which he exposed a moment branch in Cairo, Egypt. By the time of their death thirteen years later on, their title had become synonymous with studio photography in Constantinople towards the degree that their studio remained active plus the brand new handling partner, Polycarpe Joaillier, changed its title to “Sebah and Joaillier.” The business enterprise proceeded to prosper and attain renown, even incorporating Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to its listing of customers in 1889 during their stop by at Constantinople.

A portrait of two Armenian guys in complete dress taken circa 1875 reveals Sebah’s mastery of both the technical areas of photography as well as its usage being a medium that is artistic. The men’s formal poses showcase their wide pants, scarves, and hats, facets of old-fashioned Armenian costume that might have instantly triggered recognition among audiences. Their expressions match the dignity of the position. This will be a posed studio picture, likely staged by Sebah and their assistants to portray these males being a “type,” or as representatives regarding the Armenian ethnic team to which he additionally belonged. The control of tonalities, or the way when the sepia colour of the photograph differs from light to dark, expressing aspects of illumination and shadow, is probably the characteristics which most plainly signals Sebah’s ability as an musician.

J. Pascal Sebah (Armenian, 1823-1886), Armenian Men, ca. 1875. Los Angeles, Getty Analysis Institute (96.R.14, Box 77)

comparable control of tonality and composition is visible in Sebah’s record album, Les costumes populaires de la Turquie en 1873, commissioned by Ottoman diplomat, musician, and creator of Istanbul’s Academy of Fine Arts, Osman Hamdi Bey. In looking for professional photographer to depict the individuals for the Ottoman Empire when it comes to 1873 International Exposition in Vienna, Osman Hamdi Bey decided on Sebah as a result of the refined beauty of their design. The image of an bride that is armenian the main figure in Plate V, captures this quality utilizing the way when the dangling tassels, necklace, and gold pattern of this bride’s costume catch the light, contrasting using the delicate lace of her veil.

J. Pascal Sebah (Armenian, 1823-1886), Constantinople: Armenian Bride. From Osman Hamdi Bey (Turkish, 1842-1910), Les costumes populaires de la Turquie en 1873: ouvrage publie sous le patronage de la Commission imperiale ottomane pour l’Exposition universelle de Vienne. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute (96.R.14, Box 139)

The standards that are high by Pascal Sebah stayed a hallmark of their studio, even with his death. The 1894 Sebah and Joaillier image for the quarter that is armenian Brousse, situated over the water of Marmara from Istanbul, for example, presents a silly view taken on a hill. Like in the image regarding the two Armenian males, the mastery of tonalities for which Sebah’s studio ended up being understood is again on display. The bright midday sunlight posed a challenge, because it could easily clean the details out of gestures, faces, and things, nevertheless the professional professional photographer deftly dealt with this particular issue by positioning the little youngster off to the right regarding the road within the final in a line of woods, permitting the shadows to pay for the glare. Near examination reveals that every individual into the image is positioned in the shade, either of this woods or associated with two-story structures regarding the side that is opposite of road.

Sebah & Joaillier Studio (Armenian, active 1890-1940s), Brousse: Armenian Quarter, 1894. Los Angeles, Getty Analysis Institute (96.R.14, Box 70)

The “Abdullah Freres” studio, run by three brothers of Armenian lineage, exposed in 1858 and quickly became therefore honored for the technical skills and artistry that simply 5 years later on the brothers had been called royal photographers towards the Ottoman Sultan. In 1867, they exhibited their 220 panorama that is cm-long of at the second Overseas Exposition held in Paris, moving beyond the studio to show their equal cap cap cap ability as landscape photographers internationally. They hosted a clientele that is distinguished these years, photographing Edward, the Prince of Wales, during their stop by at Turkey, and Eugenie, the Empress of France. By 1886, their popularity had spread in terms of Egypt, and also at the private demand associated with the Khedive (Viceroy) here, they even launched a branch in Cairo which lasted for the decade that is next. Interestingly sufficient, their Constantinople studio merged with compared to Pascal Sebah whenever Abdullah Freres offered it to Sebah and Joaillier in 1900.

The Abdullah Freres excelled at shooting landscapes, “types,” and scenes of day to day life into the major metropolises of this Ottoman Empire. Their picture associated with Galata Bridge, the connection spanning the Golden Horn in Constantinople and another of this town’s principal landmarks, is remarkable because of its view associated with Old City. The blurred images of boats in the middle ground suggest a bustling site of commerce, an urban landscape where the traditional meets the modern in dynamic patterns of exchange as minarets soar in the distance.

Abdullah Freres Studio (Armenian, active 1850s-1900), Galata Bridge. From Abdullah Freres, O.H. Views, 1875-1880, 1884. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute (96.R.14, A10)

a couple of five studio photographs depicting a porter and diverse kinds of street vendors stages a comparable interchange, for even though the men’s vocations are traditional, they have been now being represented utilizing the modern medium and conventions of photography, including backdrops, studio illumination, and carefully choreographed poses.

Sebah & Joaillier Studio (Armenian, active 1890-1940s), Porter and Street Vendors. From Abdullah Freres, O.H. Views, 1875-1880, 1884. L . A ., Getty Analysis Institute (96.R.14, A10)

Less rigorously staged, yet packed with power, could be the Abdullah Freres image of a fire brigade in Constantinople. As a result of age and proximity of numerous structures, together with the substantial usage of wood timbers in construction, the town lived under constant danger of fire, and firefighters hence held a role that is significant town. By dedicating a record web page in their mind particularly, the Abdullah Freres respected their value to civic life, simultaneously showing the preparedness and modernity of Constantinople’s municipal solutions.

Abdullah Freres Studio (Armenian, active 1850s-1900), Fire Brigade. From Turquie, 1880. Los Angeles, Getty Analysis Institute (96.R.14, A25)

These brief examples expose just a portion associated with extent of Armenian participation in photography through the century that is late-nineteenth. There have been a large number of other Armenians working not merely in Ottoman lands however in Eastern Europe and Central Asia whose legacy nevertheless stays to be explored. Once the amount of images through the Gigord Collection obtainable in the Getty’s electronic collections is growing, it really is our hope that details about this remarkable historic website link between the Armenian community and photography for the reason that age will end up more commonly available, and that fresh discoveries will still be made. The annals of photography is really a discipline that is relatively new and also this chapter continues to be being written.

Julia Grimes is finishing her Ph.D. in Chinese modern and modern art at the University of Ca, l . a .. She’s got been an extensive research associate during the Getty analysis Institute since 2010.

Explore more photographs through the Pierre Gigord collection over during the Getty analysis Institute web site. There are many more than one hundred pictures within their Open Content Program and much more than 30 records available through their “Rosetta” database ( simply click on website link in top right part to obtain access to records).

This post is component of y our Curator’s solution show, a feature that is monthly of the visitor article from the curator about a work or selection of works in just one of their “open” electronic collections. The show is undertaken in partnership with OpenGLAM making feasible through financing through the European Union’s DM2E task.

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Armenians and Armenian Photographers in the Ottoman Empire
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