From the Akkasah archives: Photography in the late Ottoman era and modern Turkey

You might remember hearing about the Akkasah's collection in last October's edition of GPP Slidefest from presenter Ozge Calafato. Akkasah is the Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi which aims to explore the histories and contemporary practices of photography in the Arab world.  Through it's photography archive and a range of activities, the center also supports the developing photographic culture in the UAE.

Akkasah’s collection from Turkey includes over 10,000 images from the late Ottoman era and the modern Turkish republic, dating back to the first decade of the 20th century through to the 1980s. Akkasah has developed this collection through purchases from various second-hand booksellers and antique shops in major Turkish cities, primarily Istanbul. The majority of the photographs in the collection date from the 1920s through to the 1950s. 

 This unique collection largely focuses on amateur photographs from family albums along with individual and group portraits taken in various studios across Turkey. Within the collection, there is a special section that features orientalist postcards from major Ottoman cities including Istanbul, Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Damascus and Beirut. 

Photography in the Ottoman Empire dates back to the 1840s, initially promoted by studios such as those of Abdullah Frères, and Sabah and Joaillier; and later gaining popularity in all major cities of the newly formed Turkish republic after the 1920s. Focusing on vernacular photographs, the Akkasah collection offers a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a rapidly Westernizing society, and provides a fresh perspective on the nation-building process through detailed depictions of the adoption of more modern lifestyles and family structures.

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