Between Orientalist Cliches and Images of

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Between Orientalist Cliches and Images of
Between OrientalistClichesand Images of
MModernization
Photographic Practice in the Late Ottoman Era
MichelleL ・ち OOぱ川はぬ
In contemporary
writing about nineteenth-centuryphoツ
ム
tography of the Middle East it has become almost a cliche
to describe many of these images as 'Orientalist'
that is,
reflecting or propagatinga
search of commercial success, Ottomanphotographers
and Europeans alike embraced the style and subject-
matter
of picturesque illustrations
and orientalist
paint ツ
of representation that ings, which were alreadyencoded with the ideology of
cultural alterity'.4Aker, Erdogdu and others neglect to
creates an essendalized difference between the 'Orient'
and the 'West'. Most of these scholars draw on Edward
considerhow indigenous photographers, or indeed those
Said'sinfluentialbook Orientalism,
which traces how Europe Western photographerswhose thinking did not precisely
manufacturedan imaginary Orient through literaryworks match the stereotype of the Orientalist,createdindividual
andthe socialsciences.'For example, NissanN. Perez writes stylistic responses to the complexities of the real world
in his book FocusEast: Early Photographyin theNear East around them while also contending with that vast 'net of
(1839-1885) that 'Literature, painting, and photography Western ideas'.
The photographic visualconventions of late-nineteenthfit the real Orient into the imaginary or mental mold
existing in the Westerner's mind. ... These attitudes are century representations of the Middle East were, contrary
mirrored in many of the photographstaken during this to the emphasis of much scholarship,not monolithic
time [the nineteenth century] ... Either stagedor carefully or hegemonic, but rather reflect a complex range of
selected from a large array of possibilities,they became perspectives from fictional Orientalist cliches such as
living visual documents to prove an imaginary reality'.2 erode harem scenes to the documentary images of modern ツ
While the trend to extend Said's analysisto apply ization found in the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II's
equally to visual representations has resultedin trenchant photographic albums.5A portion of this range can be
criticalanalysis,it has also at times been used too broadly, illustratedthrough an analysisof photographscreatedby
0bscuring nuances and inconsistencies,not only between the Istanbu1-based Sebah family commercial studio in
different photographers' bodies of work but also within terms of visualform and content, especiallyin comparison
them. Jiilide Aker explainsin her exhibition publication with the work of a prolific and long-standing French
Sight-seeing:Photography of the Middle East and Its Audiツ family studio located in Beirut, that of the Bonfils.6The
system
ム
'1840-'1940 that 'Orientalism is, then, a discourse in
Michel Foucault's sense of the word: a system of meaning
and representation that pervades an entire culture, one
that delimits what can be thought or said about its subject
ences,
focus here is on how these two studios chose to photo ツ
graph people in public places such as markets, streets,
mosques,
and baths in the period 1870-1900. Looking
closely at this portion of their work, it appears that the
and has a specificideological function. By this definition, Bonfils work was generally unable to transcendpopular
Europeannotions of the 'Orient', while the Sebahfamily
no photographicimage of the Middle East escapes the net
of Western ideas about the region'.3Ayshe Erdogdu, developed a mode of representation that combined a
writing about the sale of photographsof Ottoman'types' detailedview of local Ottomansociety with visual signs
in the Victorian market, concludes that 'In order to be of a new modernorder. In particular,the Sebah family
considered authentic enough to circulatein the market, createda unique style of photographinggroups of people
a photograph had to conform to the premises of Victorian in public spaces
what I call 'community portraits'.This
society's regime of truth, regardlessof the nationality or style reveals a negotiation between tourist desires for
intentionsof the individualphotographerwho took it. In exotic images and local Ottoman self-conceptions as
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Michelle L. Woodward
modem citizens, in the process subverting common European
notions of a static and backward Middle East.7
Late-nineteenth-centuryphotographyworldwidemay
at first appear
to have
a uniformity of style,
recognized '100k'. There
photographs
an
easily
certainly characteristicsof
are
made in this period that are broadly consistツ
such as the sharpfocus and minute detailprovided by
the use of large glass plate negatives. There was also a
wide-spread interest in cataloguing people according to
ent,
aE
ion,
ndvent
Europeanpopular interestin the Middle
aiready
been firmly established.Oriental motifs
had been appropriated for use in clothing fashions, litera ツ
ture, music, furniture, drawings and paintings since the
sixteenth century. As soon as photographers
developed
to photograph outside their own backyards they
immediatelyheadedto Egypt, Palestineand Istanbu1.The
ways
earliest photographers
to travel
to the Middle East did not
ム
photograph for commercial purposes but were primarily
wealthy touristsor explorersof archaeological ruins (often
ethnic group or occupation as well as commonalties in the
use of studio backdrops, props and poses.8However, upon
for government sponsors)such as MaximeDu Camp
closer inspection it becomes clear that there are also
traveling with Gustave Flaubertム and Auguste Saizmann.
significant variations in visual conventions and style. By the late 1850s the wet collodionprocess of makingglass
Describing these variationsraisescomplex issuesof how negativesallowed for the creation of multiple, affordable
representationalpracticesare influenced by cross-cultural prints for mass consumption. From the 1860s, photo ツ
interactions,socialcontext, nationalpolitics,and personal grapherslike FrancisFrith and Felix Bonds quicklyfound
and group identity. Furthermore, in questioning the commercial success with a European public fascinatedby
usefulness of applying the term Orientalist to a majority
the 'East' as well as with tourists travellingin the region
of images of the Middle East, I hope to help create a space seeking mementos to take home.
for seeing the nuances within and between bodies of
photographic work and to begin exploring the ways in
Commercialphotographystudios: the Sebah and
which non-western photographersadapted and responded
Bonfils families
to European
stylistic influences in the realm of photogra ツ
phy.9Before 100king at the work of the SebahandBonfils The Sebah and Bonfils familieswere permanent residents
studios, it is important to review the historical context of of the OttomanEmpire and establishedlong-1asting local
late-nineteenth-century photographic practice in the studios,unlike many other photographerswho workedin
Middle East and the deepening relationsbetween Europe the Middle East for a short period and then returned to
Europe with their negatives.However, the Sebah family
and the OttomanEmpire.
was of local
Photographyand European desires
The desire to document
the Middle East in photographs
existedfrom the firstunveilingof the photographic process.
1n the public announcement
in Paris of Louis-JacquesMandeDaguerre's inventionof the daguerreotype process
in August 1839,the scientistand politicianFrancoisArago
described its great future potential
How archaeology is going
to
with
this example
benefit from this
new
process!
heritage, while the Bonfils were Europeans
who had moved to Beirut from France. Pascal Sebah was
born in 1823 in Istanbul to a Syrian Catholic father and
an Armenian mother. In 1857 he opened his first photo ツ
graphy studi0." Upon moving in 1860to a betterlocation,
0n the fashionable Grande Rue de Pera, he employed a
young Frenchman, A. Laroche, to run the studi0. In 1873
Sebah was successful enough to open a studio in Cair0,
which is when Laroche left to work elsewhere. Most of
Sebah's customers in both cities were tourists, but he also
participated regularly in exhibitions in Paris, winning a
copy
It
would
themillions
require
and
twenty
millions
years
of
and
hieroglyphics
legions
ofdraftsmen
covering
just
to numberof medalsandbecoming
amemberof theSociete
the outside of the great monuments
of Thebes, Memphis, Franyaise de Photographic,
an
organization devoted to
Lmak
SkwI山e[c.Asinglemancanaccomplishthissameenormous
tUthe
小四eneo
pe
furthering
theartand
science
ofphotography
1n 1873 Sebah began a collaboration with the acclaimed
口
け
,
・
川
The nineteenth century's passionfor cataloging, co1- Turkish painter Osman Hamdito photograph models for
lecting and explaining the world in scientific, empirical his paintings.Although Hamdipainted in the traditional
terms was manifested in the formation of new disciplines
Orientaliststyleof Europeans suchas his mentor Jean-Leon
such as anthropology and sociology, new theories like Gerome, he utilized compositions that countered their
Darwin's evolution,
as well as in the ways society used the
exoticized and eroticized vision.
Instead he offered a view
technology of photography.The photograph's ability of life in the OttomanEmpire where girls in sumptuous
to record more life-1ike detail than any other process led
palaces read books rather than recline voluptuously in
to its use as a tool for accumulating visual surveys of urban semi-nudity and where men of religion debate and study
space, historicalmonuments, colonialpossessions,
andpeople rather than worship fanatically.12
It was through his
relationshipwith Osman Hamdi that Sebah landed the
as ethnic or occupational 'types'.
The Middle East was the first region outside Europe commissionto photograph folk costumes of the Empire's
and the USA to be subject to these visual surveys of provinces for the OttomanExhibition in Vienna in 1873,
landscape,architecture and people.By the time Daguerre's bringing him acclaimfrom both Europe and the Ottoman
new
photographic
364
process was announced
in Paris in 1839 as
court.