Tourist safari

Colonial photography was our way of asserting our dominance over our subjects and their landscape. Indeed, the eve of photography changed the way in which we controlled the colonized. For the first time we were able to create catalogues, recording each individual tribe or type of person. This was first used in India in 1840. [1]State mobilised photography grew in power and meaning- and being in possession of a photograph of a colonial subject, also meant possession of the Orient. [2] To the colonizers, possession was a means to power which according to Edward Said was the Western method of ‘dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient.’ [3] Oriental photography became part of the tourist trade. Postcards depicting Orients were sent home to bemuse Westerners, and travellers were able to take mementos of their trip back to friends and family- showing the strange world of the East.

During the 1860s, one such photographer- Pascal Sebah who was based in Constantinople rose to prominence through his collaboration with Osmand Hamdi Bey who ‘posed models’ for Sebah to photograph. [4] The collection was awarded a gold medal by Viennese organisers.

Constantinopolitan photographers, such as Sebah and Abdullah Freres, had a ready market selling images to tourists — of the city, ancient ruins in the surrounding area, portraits, and local people in traditional costumes…’[5]

The tourist safari had begun…


(Studio portrait of models wearing clothing from Istanbul, Ottoman Empire. 1873. 1-Armenian bride 2-Jewish woman of Constantinople 3- Young Greek girl. Photograph: Pascal Sebah)

[1] Christopher Pinney, Camera Indica: The social life of Indian Photographs, ( London, 1997),p. 17.

[2] Christopher Pinney, Camera Indica: The social life of Indian Photographs, ( London, 1997),p. 29.

[3] Edward W. Said, Orientalism, (New York, 1979),p. 3.


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