Photography in Erzerum, Harput, Van and Beyond, just published

LONDON/NY – IBTauris, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, has announced the publication of Dr David Low’s book Photographing the Ottoman Armenian World: Photography in Erzerum, Harput, Van and Beyond as part of the series Armenians in the Modern World and Early Modernity.

The Armenian contribution to Ottoman photography in the last decades of the empire has been well documented. The studios founded and run by Ottoman Armenians in Istanbul contributed to the exciting cultural flourishing of Ottoman “modernity”, before its dissolution after the First World War. Less known however are the pioneering eastern studios in the Armenian heartland of the empire, whose photographic output reflected and became a major form of documentation of the significant events and changes of the period, war and revolution. to persecution, migration and ultimately genocide.

This book examines photographic activity in three Armenian cities on the Armenian plateau: Erzurum, Kharpert and Van. It explores how indigenous photography was rooted in the seismic social, political and cultural changes that shaped the lives of Armenians during the last four decades of the Ottoman Empire. Arguing that photographic practice was marked by the central movements of the time, he shows how photography was linked to Armenian educational efforts, mass migration and revolutionary activity. Photography responds to and becomes the instrument of these phenomena, to such an extent that it can be shown that they are at the origin of the very diffusion of the medium in the Armenian communities of the Ottoman East and of the rapid multiplication of studios photographic. Contributing to the growing interest in Ottoman and Middle Eastern photographic history, the book also offers valuable perspective on the history of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

“Like many predominantly Armenian works, this is a book written in response to absence. Armenians are widely recognized as being at the heart of photography in the Ottoman Empire, yet the stories of Armenian photographers, their lives and their images, remain largely unwritten,” said Dr Low. “However, rather than producing a history of photography in the classic art-historical mode, my goal has been to write what you might call a photographic history, a history that uses the lives of photographers and, more so, their subjects and their images as a way to enter and explore a larger history of Armenians in the Ottoman East,” he continued. “Although written in response to the absence, the book strives to avoid the widespread notion of photographs as remnants of a lost world. Rather, it approaches them as the creations of a dynamic world and the products of lived lives. Its central concern is how we could productively write about the photographs and what kind of stories could be produced when we study them closely, examine them and converse with them.

Book reviews:

“Painting the Ottoman Armenian world powerfully fills in the most glaring gaps in photographic studies of the Middle East: a critical and rigorous dive into the central role of Armenians in the history of Armenians in the history of Ottoman photography. Low offers us a scrupulous and scholarly social and artistic history of Armenian photography that promises not only to change the way we think about Ottoman visual culture, but also to upend our understanding of the history of photography more broadly. Stephen Sheehi, Wellesley College

“Low offers a groundbreaking study in photography of a neglected region of the Ottoman Empire. It tells the gripping story of multi-generational Armenian photographic families, whose work was long considered lost during the 1915 Genocide. An important contribution to both the history of photography and the social history of Ottoman Armenians . Armen T. Marsoobian, Southern Connecticut State University

Professor Bedross Der Matossian (University of Nebraska, Lincoln), series editor Armenians in the Modern World and Early Modernity, said: “We are extremely pleased to publish David Low’s book. It is well known that Armenians played a prominent role in introducing photography to the Middle East in the 19e and the 20e centuries. Low’s book is a sophisticated analysis that integrates the history of Armenian photography in the central cities of historical Armenia with the major political and socio-economic transformations that took place in the Ottoman Empire. The book will have a lasting impact on how scholars view the Armenian contribution to photography.

Dr David Low

Dr. Low is a photography historian who focuses on the Ottoman Armenian world and the place of photography in the lives of Armenians, as well as the broader intersections of photography, migration and exile. He received his doctorate from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London.

Upcoming books in the series:

The King’s Band: Armenians in Ethiopia, Boris Adjemyan. July 2023 • 9780755648412 • Hardcover • £90.00 • 288 pages

Ararat in America: Armenian-American Culture and Politics in the Twentieth CenturyBenjamin F. Alexander October 2023 • 9780755648818 • Hardcover • £85.00 • 256 pages

The Armenian Diaspora and Stateless Power: Collective Identity in the Transnational Twentieth Centuryedited by Talar Chahinian, Sossie Kasbarian & Tsolin Nalbantian. November 2023 • 9780755648207 • Hardcover • £65.00 • 256 pages

Armenians in Turkey after the Second World War: an archive reader of USSR consular documents, Talin Suciyan. December 2023 • 9780755646326 • Hardcover • £85.00 • 224 pages

Syrian-Armenian migrant women in Armenia: painful gender, identity and belonging, Anahid Matossian. February 2024 • 9780755648467 • Hardcover • £85.00 • 256 pages

Russia’s Other Eastern Church: The Armenian Confession and Tsarist Autocracy, Paul W. Werth. June 2027 • 9780755646104 • Hardcover • £85.00 • 256 pages

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