Written by Aly DesRochers
Nicholas V. Artamonoff may have just been an amateur photographer, but his camera lens skillfully captured a full and varied view of the city of Istanbul in the 1930s and 1940s. ICFA holds only 542 photographs of mostly Byzantine buildings and monuments in the city, but the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives of the Smithsonian Institution holds 477 Artamonoff photographs that show additional views of Istanbul. The Freer and Sackler images feature scenes of daily life in the streets of city: bustling marketplaces filled with people, diligent work of lone craftsmen, busy shopkeepers and vendors, and children playing amongst them.
Nicholas V. Artamonoff assigned negative numbers to all of his photographs, so we know that the ICFA and Freer and Sackler photographs fall into one collection, since their negative numbers fall into one sequence. The Freer and Sackler photographs were digitized by David Hogge, Archivist of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, and his volunteers. They have generously permitted us to include their images in our online exhibit, so that we can bring these two pieces of Artamonoff’s collection together digitally. We have uploaded 118 of those photographs, for which we have provided limited and provisional descriptive data. The Freer and Sackler holdings also include many pictures of Ottoman buildings and monuments; we are working to fully identify and describe those photos before we publish them in the online exhibit.
In the meantime, enjoy the early sampling of Freer and Sackler photographs that are online (you can use tagged keywords to browse images that feature new subjects, such as boats and animals). By viewing the collection as a whole, it is evident that Artamonoff’s photographic interests were much broader than we once thought. His abundance of subjects makes the Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection rich and engaging, providing a glimpse into the diverse city of Istanbul in which he lived, and into the versatile photographer he was.