The Role of Abdul Hamid II in Photography Development

A Glance at the Role of Abdul Hamid II in Photography Development and Investigating the Photo-Photo collections that He Had Donated to the Library of Congress and the British Museum

Mehdi Sadeqi

It seems that the photography advancement in Ottoman Empire was occurred at the same time in Iran. As Iran and the Ottoman Empire had many similar cultures and both were Muslims, neighbors, investigating photographic events including the importation, formation, development, and progress of the Ottoman Empire is important. This study is important because the photography in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) with the support of Abdul Hamid II is similar to the photography in Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar's era in Iran.
The current study considers the role of Abdul Hamid II in the development of photography in the Ottoman Empire, also considers such issues as:
The Role of Abdul Hamid II in photography development and investigating the photo-photo collections that he had donated to the library of congress and the British museum; then concludes that Abdul Hamid II played a key role in photography development and using it as a tool in service and for the king.

Photography, Abdul Hamid II, Ottoman Empire

The Ottomans' awareness of the photography invention
On October 28, 1839, the calendar of events, a newspaper published in Turkish, Arabic, French, Greek, and Armenian in Istanbul, which announced:
This translation is a news report from a European newspaper: Everyone knows that steam engines powered by rail have been produced in recent years. In another port, a noble man has focused his thoughts on unique and artistic equipment that it likes a mirror. A talented Frenchman captures the reflected image of objects in the sunshine with various artistic and scientific tricks. This extraordinary scientific development takes twenty years of effort. This invention has been a great success and the world has acclaimed it. (Ozendes 2013 15)
Photography has been known as an art in the Ottoman Empire since its inception. The news about what Louis Daguerre invented in 1839 was published in ''calendar of events'' newspaper the for the first time; and it was  followed by many photographers to the Ottoman Empire to take photographs of the Ottoman Empire and its important buildings. In 1845, the Italian photographer, Carlo Naya, brought the first Istanbul photo studio in Prague, which sold photography equipment, also taught the art of photography to people (photograph 1). The invention of the Collodion method in the early 1850s by Frederick Scott Archer (who used glass plates instead of metal plates) made photography easier and cheaper and helped it to be more extended (Greene 2011).



1.A Boats in Venezia
Carlo Naya, 1870

Role of Abdul Hamid II in Photography Development
Abdul Hamid II (1818-1818, reign: 1909-1876) came to power after Morad V (1840 1904, reign: May and August of 1876), who ruled only three months after Abdulaziz. (Ozendes 2013 32)
During the reign of Abdul Hamid II in the Ottoman Empire, photography became more practical and was used for documentary. He was interested in and before being a king, he was tried to discover the usage of photography. (Waley 1991).
Abdul Hamid's interest in photography also reflects his twofold personality. Photography was one of several European inventions that attracted Abdul Hamid. In fact, Abdul Hamid was very interested in photography that he kept a collection of more than thirty thousand photographs at the Yildiz Palace. Some of them were kept in silver frames with diamonds, but most were stuck in photo collections held in the library, and he watched them for many times. his favorite photographers were Ali Reza, chief photographer of the Ministry of War and the Academy of Engineering, and Abdullah Freres (an Armenian brother of Abdullah) who was in an Armenian company at 452 Grande Rue de Pera, the main street in the European part of Constantinople; These were the photographers of the king. (Photograph 2)



2.Abdul Hamid II

Photography was developed in Ottoman Empire because of Abdul Hamid's sharp keen. Dissatisfaction with the highly realistic representation of human figures that made photography possible was often expressed by the lower classes of society and religious scholars. The upper classes, in order to follow Abdul Hamid were the overwhelming supporters of Istanbul's photography studios that the owners of them were non-Muslim Ottomans. Most of the photographers were Armenian, Syrian, and Greek Christians whose families worked in fields, which were related to the technology of photography such as metalworking and pharmacy. Cultural and linguistic affinities with Western Europe (in addition to the religious prohibition of photography) made these groups more willing to accept the the profession of photography. Muslim photography practitioners were generally graduated from military school who had found practical application to photography with landscapes used in military maneuvers. (Greene 2011)
Photography was not just a fun for Abdul Hamid. He used photography as a tool and weapon more than any other king did. (Mansel 1989)
Abdul Hamid was interested in the science of traditional face recognition, which made possible to discover personality traits based on physical characteristics. By investigating the photographs, he selected them as students from military schools. (Waley 1991)
In 1844, he ordered his police minister to bring out all prisoners to Istanbul to take photographs of them. They take large portrait photographs, either individually or in groups of three, and were arranged in photo collections containing the prisoners' names, crimes that were written under their photo. In 1901, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of King Abdul Hamid's reign, he used these photo collections to decide which prisoners were eligible for pardon. These photo collections are important source for the covering culture in that period because these photo collections were full of the photographs of people with different life backgrounds (photograph 3) (Ozendes 2013 32).
Abdul Hamid II rarely left his palace; so he decided to send photographers from Albania to Mesopotamia to take photographs and by them could, he could be aware of his empire's situation. He also commissioned to take photographs of government employees to review their properties before he visited them.


3.The bandit
Mustafa son of Ali, one of the bandits who received the death sentence, 1900

More than 30,000 photographs have been refurbished and cataloged in the form of glass plates by the Istanbul Center of Islamic History, Art, and Culture. The headquarters of this center are in Yildiz Palace Abdul Hamid was lived in a century ago. (Mansel 1989)
Abdul Hamid was interested in fine arts and photography. In January 1894, he ordered to set up a photography studio at Yildiz Palace, appointing Ali Reza Bay as the studio's director. Abdul Hamid spends most of his spare time in the painting studio, photography studio and the music room. He was good at face recognition. He carefully scrutinized photographs of members of the high-ranking Istanbul families and selected students to join the military academy.
Tahsin Pasha, Abdul Hamid's e first secretary, wrote in his memoir that when Abdul Hamid flipped the foreign-language newspapers, had said: "Every photograph is a visualization of a thought. A photograph expresses political and emotional ideas that do not fit into hundreds of pages of writing. That is why I use photographs more than words."
Because photography had a great importance for Abdul Hamid, it had expended very fast during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Abdul Hamid commissioned photographers to record the events and main institutions of the country. He had photographs' collection of all Navy ships, military installations, factories with all his crew and members and workers, buildings which government was building those, schools, police stations, mosques, ethnographic scenes, landscapes, and archaeological sites. He observed foreign states-men's travel to the Ottoman Empire and the opening of hospitals and other important institutions through photographs, which he ordered to take.
Therefore, Abdul Hamid II was the most prominent supporter of photography in Ottoman Empire. (Ozendes 2013 32)
Abdul Hamid was afraid of being assassinated. His reign was a period of near-constant crisis and a struggle to save the empire. As numerous photographs that are in his photo collections show, he carried out many institutional reforms, some of which led to the modernization of the Ottoman Empire.
Abdul Hamid II rarely left his refuge, Yildiz palaces in Besiktas, near the European coast of the Bosphorus. He used newsmongers and spies to be aware of political and other developments. Photography was an almost ideal means for him to complete his written and oral information with visual data. An obvious but crucial fact can be remembered here: Photography, although seemingly media-based, can easily be a concealer or a pervert. It is not known whether Abdul Hamid was aware of this issue or not; probably, the agents whose territory was controlled by his photographers were well aware of it. There are examples in his own collection that illustrate this point. (Waley 1991)
Abdul Hamid II was deposed after 32 years, 7 months and 27 days. The Yildiz Palace was looted and some looters tried to enter the palace library. Kalkandelenli Sabri bay, library's supervisor, saved valuable collection of manuscripts, books, and photo collections. He stopped them and said that the looters could only enter the library by passing her dead body. (Ozendes 2013 35)
Abdul Hamid's photographs show an unforgettable image of the half-Asian half-European empire in the Middle East struggling to survive. There are, however, amazing vacancies. Although the Orient Express1 has linked Constantinople to other European capitals since 1883, there are no photographs of those trains in these photo collections. People have been carefully figured in front of office buildings or photographers' studios, but have been removed from the streets of the city. The few numbers of photographs of Abdul Hamid are the most important issue. This royal photography enthusiast eliminated his image from images trying to portray a better image than his empire because of religious skeptical or maybe he was afraid of the gun that might be hidden in the camera. (Mansel 1989)

Photography in the Service of the Empire
Abdul Hamid II also used the art of photography to depict the Ottoman Empire as a modern state. The Ottoman government had long been aware of its negative image in Western European capitals and newspapers.
The ideas of Europeans were important for Abdul Hamid, although he hated the intervention of European powers but he needed their support to save his empire. He often entertained Europeans at dinner parties and gave them decorating objects to attract their attention. (Mansel 1989)
The necessity of creating a positive image of the Ottoman Empire and its life circle was clear. As Ottoman military and industrial power was declining (despite its image in the Abdul Hamid's photo collections) and due to the growing inability of the government to defend (or maintain order) in remote and different geographical areas, the empire used politics to survive. All Ottoman Empire's discourses became more complicated with the diplomatic and literary discourse of the time. The negative image of Turkish people was not limited to visual culture.
The negative Ottoman Empire image in public opinion was evident because of the writings of European writers and political leaders and the Ottoman government had to control it. Reports of brutality by the Ottoman government against its minorities were reflected in the writings of modern-day political leaders.
Abdul Hamid liked to show the world The image of the Ottoman Empire which was on the souvenir photo collections and postcards that purchased by tourists and travelers to Europe and the United States ; but those were in contrast with the real image of the Ottoman Empire. Both images were neither absolute truth nor falsehood. Both represented a distinct viewpoint that the Ottoman Empire had prepared for the same audience but conveyed a different message. Seeing these two images together shows an image of a transient empire.
Photographers did more than taking photographs just for tourists. Much of their income was taking portrait photographs for the upper classes of Ottoman society and foreign officials. Upper classes Citizens of the Ottoman Empire imitated the king and took family portrait photos (photograph 4). Basil Caropoulos and later Abdullah Fares, as the king's photographers had the honor of taking photograph of the royal family and his government' employees. These include photographs of the king himself, his numerous children, his mistresses, and his generals.



4.Three brothers and their sister
Sabah and Julier, 1901


Famous photographers, the Abdullah brothers, also set up their own photography studio in Prague in 1858. The three brothers, Quirk, Vijen and Hoosep (who were Armenian), learned photography in Paris and they were very famous in Istanbul and the entire world because of what they learned. The king's Photographer during the reign of Abdul Aziz and Abdul Hamid, were called Abdullah Faraz, which was the second studio in their reign. Their special attention to light and shade as well as the spatial arrangement reflect the artistic quality of their photographs. Pascal Sebah, a Syrian Catholic, opened his own studio that was called EL Chark in 1857. EL Chark which was renamed to Sebah & Joaillier in 1888; and after its ownership in 1934 became the son of Sabah and new foreign partners were added, it was renamed to Photo Sebah. Although Sebah studio never achieved the official title that the Abdullah brothers achieved, but it was one of the most prolific, most accomplished, and commercially successful studios (which eventually closed down in 1953). Sebah & Joaillier bought the Abdullah Brothers studio in 1900 and presented their style as "successors to Abdullah Fares", which was a testament to both the success of the Sebah studio and the durability of Abdullah Brothers' studio.
All of these studios worked because of: royal patronage, private sponsors, and ultimately for producing photo collections and postcards for tourists and visitors of the Ottoman Empire. Investigating the differences in selecting and presentation of the subject in each of these three categories is important. Most of the photographs taken for the king were real, while commercials were generally fashionable. The government ordered photographs as needed, but nongovernmental photographs were produced based on what people bought.
Abdul Hamid hired the mentioned photography studios in Istanbul (most notably Abdullah Faraz, Sebah and Joaillier) because of the government's documentary and administrative needs, not for their artistic needs. Buildings, monuments, and industrial sites in Istanbul and other parts of the empire were the subjects of this photographic documentary. The aim of the project seems to be to take photographs of all the important sites of the empire. Therefore, camera was a panopticon for Abdul Hamid II. The collection held at the Yildiz Palace and now it is in the Istanbul University Library, contains over eight hundred photo collections which each of them containing more than eighty photographs. At least for Abdul Hamid, this great photograph collection made a good recognition (and thus control) of the empire. They showed Abdul Hamid what he wanted to see; the photographs in his collection depicted a happy and optimistic view of the Ottoman Empire. His personal photo collection illustrates his understanding of the role of photography as an "honest" representation of reality. Undoubtedly, the new and mechanical sophistication of this medium helped to elevate its status as a life documentary. The camera did not tell a lie, a photograph was produced from a chemical process that recorded light on a sensitive; Photography showed the world as it was. Was that really the case?
In addition to his personal use of photography, Abdul Hamid II recognized it as a tool to export a positive social image of his empire. He did not ignore the importance of showing his empire as a constructive state. Outside the country, public opinion was strongly influenced by the actions of foreign governments, the most powerful of which were occupying areas of Ottoman territory. A positive public image had effect on the change of diplomacy for the benefit of the empire and the improvement of economic trade. Abdul Hamid's plan was release an image of the Ottoman Empire as a modern state in the collection of photo collections, which he sent to the Library of Congress and British Museum in 1893. (Greene 2011)

Abdul Hamid II photo collection
Photo collections of the Library of Congress and the British Museum in England
In 1893, Abdul Hamid II sent eleven photography photo collections to the Library of Congress of the United States of America and forty-seven photo collections to the British Museum in England to acquaint them with the Ottoman Empire.2
These photo collection included photos of six photographers3 showing schools and other sights from the cities of Aleppo, Damascus, Adana, Izmir, Denizli, Baghda, Edirne, Manisa, Bursa, Izmit, Thessalonika, Kastamonu, Trabzon, Beirut, and Istanbul. They would leave. (Ozendes 2013 32)
The photo collections Library of Congress have been relatively accessible since 1988 by a special publishing of the Turkish Studies Journal, and it is possible to access them online, but the British Museum's photo collection are not accessible. These two collections are alike, but not identical, and their content represents a rigorous choice for presenting a photograph of the Ottoman Empire with the intention of conveying a specific message to politicians and other important members of the two governments who the collections have been dedicated to them.
(Micklewright, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution 2003)

These photographs, which are collected from the Yildiz Palace libraries, generally present images of Turkish people, landscapes, especially Istanbul, though there are also photographs of the Ottoman Empire's national monuments.

Thirty-one4 of the photo collections contain photographs which taken by Abdullah Faraz. Sabah, Julier and the Febus5 studio which are have two photo collections and they contain about 60-66 photographs; they are both after the Abdullah brothers. The Royal School of Engineering's photography center has been involved in producing a photo collection with 55 photographs. There are nine photo collections with 286 photographs, which do not have photography title on themselves. (Greene 2011)
These photo collections have magnificent green, red, and gold covers; some of them are very large and thick with gilded plates and embossed covers that only strong people can handle. (Mansel 1989)
These photo collections are not arranged by subject but by photographer's name, although some photographers focus only on specific topics. All the photo collections, approximately are 48 by 64 cm in size30, and bound in black leather with red and blue written letters on them (Figure 5). (Greene 2011)
The symbol of the king, Abdul Hamid II is on photo collections, which are designed in gold, red, green and black. The edges of the album are gilded and written in gold on each cover. Albumin prints are stacked on thick cardboard sheets.



5.One of the photo collections of Abdul Hamid II, on the cover,Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Photo by Trish Green

The subject of each photographed is written with a handwritten caption on the photo holder. Most of the photographs have two subtitles: one in Ottoman Turkish and the other in French (or in some cases English). (Waley 1991)
The front cover of all the photo albums is written in English: "Offered by HMI. Abdul Hamid II, to the National Library of the United States of America, 1893. "Behind the photo collections (photograph 6) are written in Ottoman script and the photo collections are compiled in ways that can be read by English left-to-right readers and right-to-left Ottoman readers. (Greene 2011)


6.One of Sultan Abdul Hamid II's photo collections, Back front of the Cover, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Photo by Trish Green

The photo collections were donated to the United States in 1893, and another collection was sent a year later to the British Museum Library. The exact date of their release is unclear because the Library of Congress has no record of receiving these photo collections.
The fact about the reason of donating these photo collections and the qualification of their donations is not still clear. Although the donation of the collections coincided with the Chicago Exhibition of 1893, and they were in line with the general policy of the Abdul Hamid government, there was no indication that the collections were exhibited in the Ottoman booth or even sent them in order to exhibit. Maybe Abdul Hamid thought about the conversations that was between him and Abram S. Hewitt and about what he knew about the public opinion of his country in order to find a solution to solve the misconception about the life of the Ottomans. Orientalist images of the Ottoman Empire as an undeveloped country had penetrated Western culture. in order to eliminating the image of the "undeveloped East", which was immersed in the exotic tradition that was in contrast to Western persecution and rationality, was essential to Abdul Hamid. In a document, possibly written by studios such as Abdullah Faraz, Addul Hamid wrote: "Most of the photographs which are sold in Europe humiliate our secure territory. It is necessary to take some photographs, which do not offend Muslims in a humiliating way. (Greene 2011)
The subjects of the photographs, which were selected for sending to foreign libraries, show that the major purpose was to indicate that the regime of Abdul Hamid was an enlightened and reformist king whose aim was to modernize his empire and improve the living conditions of its people. Regard to the centers to which these photo collections were sent, Abdul Hamid might have intended to indicate the monuments to the world, he also wanted to preserve some of the magnificent landscapes of Western Asia, both classical and Islamic, for the future people. Abdul Hamid II was a traditionalist who was aware of the glorious past of his now-disastrous empire; he tried to remind the former promising Turkish civilizations for British Museum and its visitors by sending these photo collections to them. (Waley 1991)

Contents of the Library of Congress and Museum of Britain
The contents of these photographs can be divided into three categories: landscapes, Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, educational developments, and industrial and military developments. The latter category occupies the largest volume of the collection and is often considered the most important issue. There are several collections of military and engineering public school students, which were photographed in the studio and sometimes in the outdoors. Industrial sites such as shipyards and factories emphasize modern ways of production in the Ottoman Empire. Photographs of the king's estates, his palaces, especially Dolmabahce Palace, his boats, and the royal stables also are considered as the important photographs. The major purpose of these photographs is that Westerns understand that the Ottoman Empire is likes them. An ordinary viewer might think that these photos were taken in Paris, London or Istanbul, and that was the exact point.
What was eliminated from these photographs indicates their purpose. What is not indicated is the image of the exotic and emotional girl that was the dream of many artists at that time, and the subject of many commercial photographs, which the photographers where those of Abdul Hamid photo collections. These commercial photographs did not emphasize the "undeveloped" situation that was the opposite of the modern image that Abdul Hamid intended, however, these photographers dealt with the same issues in different ways in their commercial photographs. Abdul Hamid wanted some photographs, which they not content beggars and the poor that was an interesting subject for the worlds. The king's photo collections try to remove these stereotypes. Although the Jews and Christians played a vital role in the administrative and cultural sectors of the country, these collections do not include non-Muslim minorities (they did not mentioned their names). The Ottoman government wanted to distinguish itself as the leading Islamic empire in the world from other countries.Abdul Hamid II, this seemingly modern and progressive king, was also the caliph of the Muslims, and no European power should interfere in the countries under his protection. In short, the urban dissatisfaction, the reform movements, and the intense internal strife that was crushing the empire were completely eliminated from the King's photo collections.
The most promising photographs of the empire can be found in photos of educational centers. a collection that is completely dedicated to a tribal school for the children of nomads and tribesmen. Abdullah brothers produced this collection. The Tribe School was established in Istanbul with the aim of educating the children of Arab, Kurdish, and Albanian in the empire in order to "become civilized" and in turn convey this civilization to their families and communities, a philosophy similar to the American philosophy that "civilized missions" It was supposed to be in favor of Native American Indians. The purpose of the school was to foster a sense of Ottoman patriotism in the students and to ensure their loyalty when they face imperialism (especially on the British side of the Arabs). Photographs of Tribes school students, by illustrating their different backgrounds and ethnicities have shown them side by side in their local coverings, standing in front of a painted background (photograph 7).
Educating girls was another important issue for the Western public. Abdul Hamid's collections are full of photographs of girls' school buildings (photograph 8) and the students (photograph 9). These girls are in contrast to the stereotype of a passive and erotic Muslim woman. These collections undermined the assumption that Ottoman (and Muslim) women and girls are generally oppressed and they had not the right to educate. There are photographs of elementary school girls and middle schoolers, as well as art school students. Many of them have a book or diploma, which is showing their teaching activity.


7. Students of Tribe School
Abdullah Fares, 1892 or 1893


8. Middle school for girls
Abdullah Faraz, 1880-1893

Education was a very important issue for Abdul Hamid. During the reign of Abdul Hamid II, they tried to accommodate primary schools for all citizens throughout the Ottoman Empire. It was clear to many Ottoman political leaders that one of the reasons for the Empire's problems was that educational standards which were much lower than in the West. In addition to having a more educated population, government education was also a way of preventing the influence of Western culture. Foreign-run schools could easily have been part of an imperialist plan invaded by alien forces. The Ottoman educational system had many similarities with Russia, Austria-Hungary, Britain, Germany, and Japan, in which the purpose of public schools was to cultivate a submissive, patriotic, and integrated population with the cultural norms of the ruling class. Textbooks were often in Turkish, even in non-Turkic for non-Turkic students (such as the tribe school).

9. Middle school students
Abdullah Faraz, 1880-1893


The same was true about Galatasaray Lycee School. The high school, which began in the late 1880s with books that were often in French, emphasizing the Roman Greek philosophical tradition and then undergoing shortsighted changes. The photo collection, which is dedicated to Galatasaray Lycee High School. Its foreign reputation as a modern school was exactly what Abdul Hamid wanted. The collection contains the photographs of the school's building (photograph 10), of the students (photograph 11), and the photographs of the gym (photograph 12). The Ottoman Empire thus used Western European patterns to fight the influence of these powers, even the photograph, which was presented, was not a real one.


10. Galatasaray Lycee School Building
Abdullah Faraz, 1880-1893

11. A group of Galatasaray Lycee school students. Abdullah Faraz, 1880-1893

12. Gymnastics training of Galatasaray Lycee School Students
Abdullah Faraz, 1892-1880



By the time the girl student in Abdul Hamid's albums reached a certain age, they would be removed from his imperial collections. The only photograph, which is in this collection, is the featuring adult women, and this is the depiction of the patients at Haseki Women's Hospital in Istanbul (photograph 13).


13. Tuberculosis part of Heseki Hospital for Women
Abdullah Faraz, 1892-1880


As primary education in the Ottoman Empire of Abdul Hamid became more and more a tool of disseminating official state ideology, more higher education institutions were established in the country. Students of institutions such as the Royal Military and Medical School (founded 1898) and the Royal Law School (1878) were regarded as the future of the empire. Students and faculty members are brought together with their teaching aids at the Royal Military and Medical School (photograph 14) in the photograph. There is a semi-demolished corpse, which is placed on a table in front of them, and it shows the samples of the human skeleton and other animals.



14. Photograph of a group of students and teachers at the Royal Military and Medical School
Abdullah Farazs, 1892-1880


Abdul Hamid's photo collections, as many of his photographs are trying to do, generally show a deep respect for education. the photograph of a scholar who is studying a book in the Bayazid Public Library (photograph15) which links the religious beliefs and the secular future of the empire.



15. Interior view of the Bayazid Library
Abdullah Faraz, 1892-1880


In addition to the primary education system, the ideals of the Ottoman military force at the world that an image was made of that. From the military branches, the Navy has the most photograph in Abdul Hamid's photo collections. Although (and probably because) it was believed that the Ottoman Navy was the most important military unit in Abdul Hamid's Empire that was forgotten, the photographs of the collections illustrate a modern navy and shipping infrastructure worthy of a great Middle East power. Photographs of modern ships, such as the Hamidiyeh guard ship (photograph16), can be seen in these collections. The Navy's firepower in Mahmoudiye's shield and armor and photographs of the ship's artillery (photograph 17) and military exercises on its deck are all illustrated in these photo collections (photograph18).


16. Empirical ship

17. Artillery of the Mahmoudiya Empire. Abdullah Faraz, 1892-1880

18. The gun on deck of Mahmoudiye Empire
Abdullah Faraz, 1880-1893

Abdul Hamid's photo collections show his eagerness to eradicate misconceptions about the Ottoman Empire. However, how effective were those efforts? Did these gifts change the views of the British and Americans about the history and purposes of the last great Islamic empire?
Curator,  Mohammed Isa Waley writes that on one hand, these photographs seems to have been to illustrate and document the great efforts of the Abdul Hamid and his ministers to reform and modernize imperial institutions, and on the other hand, to record the splendor of architecture and landscapes. "Seventeen collections which include panoramas of Constantinople and the former royal capitals of Edirne and Bursa; seventeen collections show military and naval installations, several collections include the photograph of civilian schools and colleges, and two other collections include photographs of horses.
These photographs illustrate memorable photographs of Constantinople in the last days of the glory of the Ottoman Empire. These photographs show an eagerness for in the history by documenting the architecture of mosques and the costumes of the dead kings on glass shelves in the Balloon Palace. Even they were taken photographs of the Byzantine churches and Roman ruins for the Muslim caliph.
After looking at these photo collections, it is impossible to believe that the Ottoman Empire was completely despotic, or that the empire did nothing good for the people. The Ottomans Empire may have been politically the "sick man of Europe", but this empire was the Middle East's modernist. Some of the most important leaders of the Arab countries had educated from the schools of Ottoman government. In fact, the Ottoman Empire was so influenced by its neighbors that the rulers of Bukhara, Yemen or Afghanistan who wanted to be modern, went to Constantinople.
Abdul Hamid tried to influence the West but he was not successful. Especially after the suppression of the Armenian uprising in 1894 and the war between Greece and Turkey in 1897, which was increasingly had negative effects for Abdul Hamid. When the Young Turks overthrew him in 1908 and 1909, the West was very happy. (Mansel 1989)
Furthermore, Mohammed Issa Vali describes the contents of the photo collections as below:
The photo collections are gathered carefully and almost all of them have a coherent set of interrelated photographs. These collections can be divided into three categories. The first is twenty collections from fifty-two collections that include the photograph of geographical landscapes and monuments of architecture; both Byzantine and Islamic (photographs 19 and 20). Most of the photographs of landscapes are taken from Istanbul, the Ottoman capital, and its surroundings, but two other collections are dedicated to the magnificent monuments of Bursa's architecture and more briefly illustrate sights of the cities of Eskisehir, Iznik and Sogut, all of them as Ottoman magnificence. One of them illustrates a wide view of the Golden Horn Bay, followed by photographs of the exterior view of the Ayasufya Mosque, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Sulaimaniyah Mosque, and Fethiye Mosque; there are some photographs of the tombs and the Ayoub Sultan River, which was a rural part on that period.


19. Port of Istanbul and Galata from Gopi Ball Palace

20. Roman Fence in the Bosphorus (Bosphorus)
Abdullah Faraz


Yildiz photo collections
The Yildiz photo collections which are in stark6 contrast to the obsessive image presented by the Ottoman Empire in the Library of Congress and Museum of Britain, they are include more than thirty-six thousand photographs in nine hundred and eleven collections38, with a random look. People all over the Ottoman Empire are like a visual encyclopedia. a book written by Nurhan Atasoy has made it possible to review photographs of Yildiz collection, they are much more difficult to access. These nine hundred and eleven collections are of different sizes and formats, and are filled with photographs ordered by the king or his agents. The photos were sent the palace by the photographers who were aware of the king's interest in photography, or they were gifts from foreign rulers and officials. The themes of the Yildiz collection's photographs, as their origins, are varied, ranging from Japanese landscapes to photographs of Ottoman criminals and railroads and newly-established police stations throughout the empire. (Micklewright, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution 2003)
The Yildiz photo collections which formerly preserved at the Yildiz Palace, were saved from destruction after the overthrow of Abdul Hamid, with the bravery of the palace's librarian, Kolkendalli Sabri Bay, and are now kept at the Istanbul University Library. (Waley 1991)

Gigord Collection
The Gigord Collection has many photographs that fall into the category of official photography, such as the three collections that are taken by the chief photographer of the Ministry of the Navy, Ali Sami Bay, who was the official photographer from 1892 until the dismissal of Abdul Hamid II.
The first collection in this series of collections, which contains eleven photographs, holds the memory of Mozaffar al-Din Shah, king of Iran, from the Ottoman court in 1900 (photograph 21). The collection begins with the official image of a group portrait, which is showing the king with a group of Iranian and Ottoman officials. Other photographs are arranged in a way to provide a brief account of the King's short voyage from the Bosphorus Strait. Photographs of the beginning of the journey, of loading at Bakirkoy, of the continuation of the journey along the coast, and photographs of the end point of the journey, Yalta.



21.Muzaffar al-Din Shah on his yacht deck during his visit from Istanbul
Ali Sami Akuzar, 1900


Each page has a handwritten tag in Ottoman Turkish that describes the subject of the photograph. Alongside this tag is pencil lettering in modern Turkish, except for the last photo, which describes a pencil note in German.
Ali Sami Bay's second collection illustrates the ceremony of the Kaiser Wilham of denoting fountain in Sultan Ahmad, on January 27, 1901. Twelve photographs of this collection illustrate different parts of the ceremony, chaired by Ottoman Foreign Minister Tevfik Pasa and von Bieberstein. This collection is a visual narrative with photographs of the newly established fountain, high-level gatherings, lectures and other aspects of the ceremony; and even a fascinating view of the dining table, which were prepared for the formal banquet with a small sculpture of a fountain in the middle of the table. The last few photographs illustrate a ship and a group of German guests. This collection and the third collection, which is related to them, have similarities in size, cover design and number of photographs. All three-photo collections have a red or brown cover decorated with a royal badge (the Ottoman coat of arms since the early 1880s) or other royal logos, both on the cover and on the back. All three collections, with ten or twelve photographs, illustrate a centralized picture of a particular event. The photos are made of gelatin silver and they have been faded. The relatively inappropriate spelling in modern Turkish and the notes added in German after the initial production of the collections, which illustrate the continued availability of these collections beyond their original purpose.
The similarities of these collections indicate that they were published regular and continuous and they were not some unique objects; this theory endorsed by Bahattin Oztuncay in his book, The Istanbul Photographer. According to the Sabah newspaper, Ali Sami Bay had been present along with others in two of the three ceremonies, which were recorded in these photo collections, and has prepared these memorial collections almost immediately after each event to present to the King. Iran's King ordered twelve copies of the collection dedicated to Ali Sami, and is likely to be that one of the collections was Gigord's collection. As a result of these projects, Ali Sami, in his office at the Ministry of the Navy, was commissioned to produce other memorial collections that their photographers were who had specific missions throughout the empire. Since, there is no accurate information to produce similar collections in later years, such as the two collection that are covered in the Gigord Collection of 1911, illustrated Sultan Mahmoud V's journey to the western regions of the empire. There are many similar collections and more scattered photographs, both in the Gigord Collection and in other collections, which show that the photographic documentation of the official activities of the King was certainly in a period after the reign of Abdul Hamid II.
Beyond the King's documentary activities, official photography has also covered a wide range of other issues which are related to government activities, such as training of Ottoman firefighters, production and sale of cigarettes and tobacco, and railroad products. There are many photo collections in Gigord's collection that deal with these or other topics. These collections are often sophisticated productions that display the extensive familiarity of Turkish photographers with photographic techniques. (Micklewright, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution 2003)

In agreement with this study, it can be concluded that photography has developed significantly during the reign of Abdul Hamid II, and the King's interest in this art has led to the development of photography throughout the empire. The use of photography as an equipment to serve the empire for political purposes is also another feature of this era. it seems that Abdul Hamid II tried to show his dominant country as an developed one  by using photography art as an effective medium.
Although he had political intentions, but his artistic interest cannot be overlooked. Abdul Hamid II, although using photography and discovering its amazing effects and tried to survive the empire, but ultimately he failed to stay in power.
Whether these photographs arouse the curiosity of a non-expert viewer or not, Abdul Hamid's photographs are a rich source for scholars who are studying about various issues in the late Ottoman era. The new science of photography-archeology, using photograph and video improvement techniques, which has already helped to rebuild monuments and investigate the agricultural ways over the past century. At the same time, the beauty and historical significance of Ottoman photographs because of studies and publications in this field is becoming more and more recognized.
The people and places, which are documented in these photographs, are a valuable resource for scholars of that ear and show visual documents of a meetings of the empire, which was trying to recreate itself. European writers, paintersو and photographers eagerly displayed an image of antiquity and barbarism that the Ottoman Empire was trying hard to ignore them. Creating a self-made image through photography for Abdul Hamid's government external communications programs was crucial. The westernization of the Ottoman society, which is illustrated in the photo collections, was not necessarily based on reality, as can be seen in the commercial photographs of the same photographers. These two branches of photography clearly show the position of the Ottoman Empire as a country, which is struggling in East and West, old and new, and death and birth.
Abdul Hamid, the leader of one of the world's last semi-religious and modern-day empires, was determined.
The proceedings which were done by Abdul Hamid II indicate the production and distribution of photographs, especially in the late nineteenth century, had infiltrated the Ottoman administrative system, and to the organizational structure and technical capability had supported complex communication policies. Archival documents have similarly documented the relationship between the palace and officials throughout the empire, through photographs, which were taken of specific places and events. The title position, money, and the badge of honor were the rewards of government officials who were responsible for producing the vast photographic documentation that Abdul Hamid demanded. There is no doubt that Abdul Hamid was able to create technological and administrative structures to assemble a large collection of photographs.
In order to clarify the different aspects of photography in the Ottoman Empire, we need to investigate the photography of that era.




1-Greene, Trish, The Abdülhamid II Photo Collection: Orientalism and Public Image at the End of an Empire.2011

2-Mansel, Philip, Selling the Ottoman Empire, Photographs courtesy of The British Library.1989.

3-Micklewright, Nancy, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Archaeologists & travelers in the ottoman lands. 2003.
4-Wally, Isa, Mohammad, Images of the Ottoman Empire: the photograph albums presented by sultan abdulhamid II.1991. <>.

5- Woodward, Michelle, Between Orientalist Clichés and Images of Modernization Photographic Practice in Late Ottoman Era.2003.

6-Ozendes, Engin (2013), Photography in the Ottoman Empire 1839-1923, Yapi-Endustri Merkezi, Istanbul.



1.    The train that traveled between Paris and Istanbul via Vienna between 1961-1981
2.    In an article entitled The Abdülhamid II Photo Collection: Orientalism and Public Image by Trish Green, there are fifty-one collections which are donated and 1819 photos in the Library of Congress collection, noting that the British Museum Collection is different Has little to do with the Library of Congress collection. Also, in his article entitled Images of the Ottoman Empire: The Photograph collections Presented by Sultan Abdulhamid II, Muhammad Isa Wali writes about the number of collections: In May 1894, the British Museum's chief librarian from the State Department issued a copy of the report. Sir Philip Curry, HH. Um. Ambassador Porte received Kenneth Kimberley. Curie was asked to send twelve volumes of books and photo albums to the museum. According to his speech, the collections were "donated by the King to the Majesty's Government for the use of the British people in order to let them know what developments in science and literature have taken place in Turkey since His Majesty's enthronement. And to know how much the king is interested in the development of education in his empire. "The meeting report of the meeting of the British Museum Supervisors, dated June 9, 1894, evaluates the report sent by Robert Douglas, in charge of the Eastern manuscript:Gift of the king of Turkey from a special collection, with a beautiful bindery of all volumes, numbering 255, printed in Constantinople during His Majesty's rule. Along with 47 interesting photo collections, Constantinople has been sent around.
3.    In an article titled "The Abdülhamid II Photo Collection: Orientalism and Public Image" by Trich Green, the number of photographers donating collections are listed as five photographers.
4.    In an article titled The Abdülhamid II Photo Collection: Orientalism and Public Image by Trish Green, there are thirty-five albums and 1291 albums by Trish Green. Also in another article entitled Images of the Ottoman Empire: The Photograph collections Presented by Sultan Abdulhamid 2
By Mohammed Esau Wali The number of collections by Abdullah Faraz has at least thirty-five collections and 1292 photos.

5.    An article titled Images of the Ottoman Empire: The Photograph Albums Presented by Sultan Abdulhamid 2 by Mohammad Isa Wali The collection m size is 25 by 30 cm by 30 by 40 cm.
6.    In an article entitled Images of the Ottoman Empire: The Photograph Albums Presented by Sultan Abdulhamid 2, more than thirty-three thousand Yildiz album photos are featured.