SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Relic Spaces: An Ottoman Photographic Expedition to the Land of Tribal Origins (1886)

Relic Spaces: An Ottoman Photographic Expedition
Dr Ahmet Ersoy, Associate Professor, Department of History, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul and 2017-2018 Senior Fellow, Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, Koç University, Istanbul

Date: 13 June 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 13 June 2018Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT)

Type of Event: Lecture

The talk centres on a series of photographic albums produced on the occasion of an official expedition commissioned in 1886 by sultan Abdülhamid II to Bithynia, the land of Ottoman origins. A group of ten Ottoman officers, including renowned photographers and painters, travelled to Söğüt (the earliest Ottoman settlement in Anatolia) and its environs in order to make a comprehensive documentation of sites of memorial value in the region, including the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, Bursa. The team produced more than a dozen photographic albums (three of which were gifted to the German Chancellor Bismarck) containing images of dramatic landscapes, towns, and monuments, as well as ethnographic photographs of the local semi-nomadic Turkmen tribes, which they associated with the Empire’s distant tribal roots. The talk follows the documentary traces of the expedition, while also tracing the movement, dissemination and repurposing of the expedition photographs in the heterogeneous media environment of the late nineteenth century. It investigates the albums as evidence to photography’s impact as a new mnemonic technology, providing an alternative mode of imaginative involvement with history. It presents the Hamidian expedition as a telling case where photography as visual data, with a forceful claim to empirical truth, blended with older forms of knowledge, like historic narrative, dynastic myth, and tribal memory.

Organiser: Rosalind Wade Haddon

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