Curated by Zeynep Çelik, Edhem Eldem and Bahattin Öztuncay, an authority on photographers of the Ottoman Empire, this exhibition looks at photography and modernity in the Ottoman Empire from 1840 to 1914. Materials in the exhibition are on loan from the Ömer M Koç Collection, with some of the displayed photographs from albums commissioned by Sultan Abdülhamid II.
After the birth of photography in 1839, the Empire embraced the new technology with great enthusiasm. In fact, the impact and meaning of photography were compounded by the thrust of modernisation and Westernisation of the Tanzimat movement. By the turn of the century, photography in the Ottoman lands had become a standard feature of everyday life, of public media and of the state apparatus. During Sultan Abdülhamid II’s reign modernity was often embedded in the photographic act, transforming it into a common and mundane practice showcasing his empire for Western audiences.
This exhibition displays different forms of these images disseminated through the illustrated press, postcards sent to family members or anonymous collectors, portraits presented to friends and acquaintances, or pictures taken of employees and convicts – and ultimately demonstrates how photography started to invade practically every sphere of the public and private life. The exhibition brings together the Empire’s modern image with an extensive selection of photographs, emphasising the widespread use of photography in various areas such as propaganda, journalism, education, criminology and medicine.