A couple of weeks ago, we received an intriguing photo request here in ICFA. Usually, we receive requests from scholars, who are seeking to reproduce images from ICFA’s collections in their journal articles or scholarly publications. This inquiry was different. Adil Murat Kansiz, a gentleman living in Istanbul, was interested in an image of Kariye Camii by Nicholas Artamonoff, which was included in our online exhibition. At first, we assumed that he was interested in this familiar view of the west facade of the monument.
However, as we dug deeper, it turns out that Mr. Kansiz was more interested in the somewhat unexpected shot that Artamonoff took of the neighborhood behind Kariye Camii.
In a subsequent letter, Mr. Kansiz explained that he lives in the Edirnekapı district of İstanbul near Kariye Camii. His grandfather, originally from Rize, a city along the Black Sea coast in northeast Turkey, arrived in Istanbul in 1934 and lived in the same neighborhood. In fact, Mr. Kansiz’s grandparents lived in a house just behind Kariye Camii. Since Mr. Kansiz is interested in history – both the history of his family and that of Kariye Camii – he will occassionally search Google images for any relevant content. I think you can see where this is headed, but we’ll let Mr. Kansiz continue with the story…
One day, I found the Artamonoff exhibition online and looked at all the images carefully. After that I showed them to my aunt. She remembered the house and cried.
She was born in that house in 1937. And one day in May 1937 a photographer, Nicholas Artamonoff, visited the Kariye Camii.
He took a few pictures of the mosque. On two of these images we can see my grandfather’s first house which doesn’t exist today.
In one of them he also caught my father’s aunt. She was peeking her head around the side of her house!
We took a closer look at the Artamonoff image and sure enough… there she is!
Additionally, Artamonoff took another photograph that captures the same house, just a stone’s throw from Kariye Camii.
Of course, we happily provided Mr. Kansiz with a copy of the image and are most grateful to him for sharing his story with us. We’re so thrilled to know that the Artamonoff collection is finding an audience beyond the scholars that we typically serve and has led to fascinating discoveries along the way. And, we’re always hopeful for new discoveries that will further illuminate our collections.
As Aly DesRochers, former ICFA intern, noted in a recent blog post, we have uploaded an additional 100+ Artamonoff images from the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Like the two images of the south facade of Kariye Camii above, these photographs illustrate Artamonoff’s interest in documenting the people of Istanbul and their everyday life, not just the city’s famous monuments. Currently, we only have provisional metadata for these images, but hope that others can help us to identify any locations or neighborhoods that they recognize. If we’re lucky, wonderful people like Mr. Kansiz may even help us to identify individual subjects in the photographs. Please have a look at the Freer-Sackler images in the Artamonoff online exhibit and feel free to be in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any clues or suggestions!