It is frequently acknowledged that Armenians played a major role in Ottoman photography, and yet much of this story remains unwritten. This lecture approaches the history of Ottoman Armenian photography through an examination of a wide variety of photographers and studios, from the famous residents of Constantinople’s Grande Rue de Péra to the lesser known establishments of the Armenian provinces. Across the empire, Ottoman Armenians were integral to the business, being responsible for the production of a vast wealth of images through which we can read numerous, sometimes divergent, purposes and concerns. However, there were also elements that were common to all photographic activity, for each studio offered their customers the means by which to fashion their own self-images and tell their own stories of life in the empire, often to audiences abroad. It is to these photographic stories that this lecture looks.
David Low has recently completed his PhD research at the Courtauld Institute of Art on the subject of photography during the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide. His research has been supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. He has been a Research Fellow at the Library of Congress, Washington DC and the Raphael Lemkin scholar at the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, Yerevan.
Image caption: A. & H. Soursourian, Graduates of the National Central School, Kharpert, 1910 (Courtesy of AGBU Nubar Library, Paris)