Documenting the Empire: The Visual Archive of Abdülhamid II – Doç. Dr. Ahmet Ersoy

Yıldız Palace became the administrative center of the Ottoman empire, replacing the Sublime Porte during the reign of Abdülhamid II (1876-1909). Around the same time, photography began to penetrate the Ottoman bureaucratic system as a new archival and documentary technology. Informed by Abdülhamid’s interest in new media technologies, a comprehensive visual archive emerged in the library of Yıldız Palace; constituting more than 36,000 photographs at the time the sultan was deposed. This archive, which contains photographs in various formats ranging from landscapes and panoramas (depicting various regions of the empire and beyond) to archaeological albums, cartes de visite, and postcards to mugshots, was part and parcel of the multilayered information gathering apparatus operating from the Yıldız Palace. Taking into account the broad archival and bureaucratic context, this talk aims to offer a better understanding of the functioning and media logic of the Yıldız Palace photography collection. The collection will be discussed as a large-scale and open-ended archiving and documentation project, with a close focus on the actors, intermediaries, and supply chains that played a role in its formation. The talk will investigate the intense and long-term interaction of the Yıldız Palace visual archive with the commercial photography market, Ottoman illustrated magazines, and print media; arguing that the fluidity, permeability, and dynamism of this unique collection was congruent with the global logic of the modern visual archive.


November 25, 2022 – 17:30


November 25, 2022 – 19:30