Written by Aly DesRochers, ICFA Intern
The Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives at Dumbarton Oaks holds (among other things) thousands of photographs from Byzantine sites throughout the world. Most of these have been catalogued, printed and made available for researchers. But our archive still holds some mysteries amid its shelves and cold storage freezers. One such photographic puzzle was a collection of 542 photographs taken in Istanbul and five archaeological sites in Western Turkey (Ephesus, Hierapolis, Laodicea on the Lycus, Pergamum, Priene) between 1935 and 1945 by an unknown photographer named Nicholas V. Artamonoff. Though this collection documents sites that are already well represented in our archive, Artamonoff’s unique artistic perspective makes his photographs stand out. The skill and dedication of Artamonoff are expressed in the beautiful photos, which captivated and intrigued us. And so we dove into the collection to identify the images and piece together who this Artamonoff was.
In October 2011, we launched an online exhibit to share Artamonoff’s photos with the world. The site includes 542 Artamonoff images held by ICFA and biographical information about the photographer. Since January 2011, we have been building the website and investigating the life of Artamonoff. The results of our research have been fascinating, revealing, and surprising; we have learned much more about Artamonoff than we ever thought possible, and more than once couldn’t contain our delight when an especially revelatory letter or email was opened. (Luckily, we work in our own space in the lower floors of our building, so our excited commotion did not disturb our library colleagues.)
We continue to find and share new pieces of the Artamonoff puzzle. During Spring 2012 we added 124 new photographs to the online exhibit. These were part of ICFA’s Robert Van Nice Collection, which was processed during the past year by ICFA intern Clare Moran. (You can read about that process in the early posts on this blog). Though these 124 images are not attributed to any photographer, we believe that the photographs may have been taken by Artamonoff. They document some of the same locations as Artamonoff, were taken during the same years that he was actively photographing in Istanbul, and display an artistic perspective that is similar to that of Artamonoff.
We also recently added commenting functionality to the online exhibit, so that you can add comments at the bottom of each photo’s page. Let us know what you think! Do the Robert Van Nice photos look similar to Artamonoff’s? Do you recognize any people or places in the photos?