Gomidas Vartabed, kendi sesinden bugüne ulaşabilen sınırlı kayıtlardan birisinde "gaorun a / bahar" isimli (tuhaf) bir parça seslendirir. 1910 - 1912 yılları arasında yapıldığı tahmin edilen orijinal kayıttaki ses bu şehirden, "Balık Pazarı - Üç Horan Kilisesi"nden yükselmektedir.
Baharın tazeliğine ve coşkusuna tezat, piyanoya eşlik eden titrek ama tok sesi ile, kayıttaki ağır filtre ve yüzey gürültüsünü delerek adeta bir yakarışta bulunur Gomidas;
"her yere bahar geldi, buralara kar yağıyor"
Kendisi de 1915'in günahsız mağdurlarından birine dönüşecek olan müzikoloğun ağzından dökülen bu dizeler, ilerleyen yıllarda 24 Nisan üzerine dile gelen belki de en lirik ağıta dönüşerek, bazı ruhlarda, bazı kulaklarda ve bazı hafızalarda (her bahar) sonsuz delikler açar..
Yeni bir ülke bulamazsın,
Başka bir deniz bulamazsın.
Bu şehir arkandan gelecektir.
Sen gene aynı sokaklarda dolaşacaksın,
aynı mahallede kocayacaksın;
aynı evlerde kır düşecek saçlarına.
Dönüp dolaşıp bu şehre geleceksin sonunda.
Başka bir şey umma-
Ömrünü nasıl tükettiysen burada, bu köşecikte,
Öyle tükettin demektir bütün yeryüzünde de.
For LINK Berin Golonu on "Foto
Galatasaray: Studio Practice by Maryam Şahinyan," by Tayfun Serttaş
(Istanbul: Aras Yayıncılık, 2011), 374 pages, softcover, in Turkish and
Ottoman photographers of Armenian heritage who operated studios in the Pera
neighborhood of Istanbul, such as Abdullah Frères and Pascal Sebah, are well
recognized in the history of Orientalist photography. But less is known about
Armenian-Turkish portrait photographers who endured political hardship during
the early Turkish Republic to continue operating their studios. Contemporary
artist Tayfun Serttaş, who has training as a social anthropologist, has taken
on the role of a social historian to call attention to some of these
practitioners. Stüdyo Osep, his first large-scale archival project, grew
out of his family’s ties to Osep Minasoğlu, a Turkish-Armenian photographer who
operated studios in Istanbul from the 1950s through the 1980s. Serttaş worked
with Osep to compile a book of images with the same title, published by Aras in
2009. This collaboration led to Foto Galatasaray: Studio Practice by Maryam Şahinyan,
a publication chroniclingthe life work of portrait photographer Maryam Şahinyan.
Şahinyan opened Foto Galatasaray in 1935 and operated it until the 1980s. After
her death in 1996, Serttaş was given care of more than 200,000 of Şahinyan’s
images salvaged by Aras. The artist continues to spearhead this mammoth
conservation project with the support of the art institution SALT Galata, which
hosted an exhibition of these photographs from November 2011 to January 2012,
many images showcased in digital form. Because the delicate condition of the
existing negatives prevents them from continual public access and display, the
book Foto Galatasaray provides the only access to a significant
selection of this archive that is presently available.
the exception of two short introductory texts by SALT director Vasıf Kortun and
fiction writer Karin Karakaşlı, the book’s other texts are all written by
Serttaş. What results is a highly personal dialogue between the absent Şahinyan,
speaking through the images she produced, and the photographer-archivist Serttaş
who injects a broader contextual meaning into these images through his methods
of organization and display. Serttaş refers to the discoveries he makes in Şahinyan’s
archive as anti-memory. He writes, “it reminds us that what we can
remember is not limited to what our memory conditioned us to remember, it
becomes anti-memory. It becomes the form of the past and making peace
‘despite the past.’ It convinces us that there is another ‘we’”.
The first chapter
recounts Şahinyan’s family history and the historical conditions and political
realities that led her to become a portrait photographer, including the ethnic
cleansing of Armenians before and during the First World War, which uprooted
her family from their home town of Sivas and stripped her father of his
government post. Şahinyan’s Armenian background and the fact that she was an
observant member of a religious minority helped her attract members of
Istanbul’s Armenian population, as well as making her studio popular with
members of the city’s other minority communities. As a result, Şahinyan’s life
work also serves to document the diversity of Istanbul’s social fabric over the
course of these years, and offers a testament to the Turkish-Armenian
community’s endurance, rootedness, and survival. It also leads the viewer to
consider the factors that altered this social fabric. Some of the related
incidents mentioned in the book include the passing of a tax law in 1942 meant
to penalize non-ethnic Turks and the anti-minority pogroms that swept Istanbul
in September 1955.
more visible identity marker, that of being the only woman commercial
photographer in Istanbul, had perhaps the most significant effect on the
clientele she attracted. There are more pictures of women and children than men
in Şahinyan’s archive. The female subjects appear to metaphorically let down
their guard (sometimes stripping down to their undergarments) and literally let
down their hair. In a particularly iconic image which graces the book’s cover,
a beautiful young woman with the slight glimmer of a smile entwines her hands
under her lace collar while leaning on a platform covered with a piece of
canvas. Her plentiful, wavy hair has been parted down the middle to extend in
two segments down over her shoulders and spill onto the platform so as to
resemble the outline of angels’ wings. In another portrait, a woman is seen
from the back, her face in profile, her rich brown mane looking as though it
has just been unleashed from a braid and is slowly expanding to take over the
entire composition. The archive documents the important changes undergoing the
representation of women in modernizing Turkey. It also offers a significant
break with the uneven power dynamic between the male voyeur and the female
subject that was all-too-often prevalent in the Orientalist photography coming
out of this region.
second chapter, titled “Open Readings,” outlines Serttaş’s practice of grouping
images in the archive according to his chosen themes. This chapter is organized
into subsections that illustrate such themes, including “Reflections of
Fashion,” “Gender” and “Migration and Transformation.” Serttaş’s educational
background in social anthropology is reflected in the way he uses these images
to narrate a social history of Istanbul that reflects changes in Turkey’s
political history. In “Reflections of Fashion,” we see Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s
sartorial reforms, intended to modernize and Westernize the new Turkish
Republic, reflected in the fashionable hair styles, hats, dresses and mink
stoles worn by Şahinyan’s clientele in the 1930s and 1940s. Some of the women
aspire to the likenesses of fashion icons such as Ava Gardner or Katherine
Hepburn, indicating the global reach of Hollywood’s ideals of beauty.
section titled “Migration and Transformation” focuses on the influx of rural
populations into Istanbul in the 1980s. Processes of industrialization,
globalization and neo-liberal economic practices continue to trigger this
city’s growth today, so that its population now numbers close to 15 million
people. Şahinyan was witness to this demographic shift in the 1980s. The new
urban transplants she photographed during these years were rural Armenians who
had recently migrated to Istanbul. In these photographs we see that women are
clothed in more traditional and modest fashions exemplary of village life.
Cotton print dresses, the şalvar (baggy trousers) and the tülbent (a head scarf
made of printed fine muslin, decorated with embroidery) have replaced the
snappy mink stoles and the jaunty hats of earlier, more cosmopolitan
Istanbulites. The extended families of these new urban residents are also
larger, sometimes including three different generations in one photograph.
These subjects illustrate how Istanbul grew to become a microcosm of Anatolia
itself, thereby also lending visual expression to a greater diversity of
region, income and class.
In the section titled
“Gender,” Serttaş’s methodology starts to resemble the practice of Lebanese
artist Akram Zaatari who has mined the historical archive of Lebanese
commercial photographer Hashem el Madani to produce narratives of difference
that make an appeal for greater social tolerance in the Middle East. In
photographs by Şahinyan that appear to date from the 1940s and 1950s, we see
transvestites posing for her camera, and men in makeup, their long nails
manicured by her rudimentary photo retouching techniques. One image shows two
men in suits with their arms around each other, leaning in for a kiss. Another shows
two women gazing longingly into one another’s eyes. Are these playful charades
enacted in front of the camera, or are they meant to serve as extremely
personal expressions of sexual preference and queer identity? This is where is
archive serves as a particularly fertile space for drawing out open-ended
meanings and thereby helping produce a greater variety of subject positions
that Istanbulites can identity with, even from a historical remove.
last portion of the book places Şahinyan’s images into two “albums,” titled
“Identicals” and “Those Who Stare Through the Mirror.” These headings are
informed by Şahinyan’s praxis, the ways she would pose her clientele and the
structural patterns that regularly reappeared in her photographs. In
“Identicals” we see children, as well as adults, dressed as doubles, wearing
either identical or extremely similar outfits. In the other album, the gazes of
the models posing in front of the mirror are reflected back at the camera, so
that both a profile view and a full facial view of the same person coexist in
one image. These albums explore important themes such as the tension between
individual subjectivity and social belonging. The richness of the level of meaning
embedded in this material also holds the potential of offering the greatest
number of psychoanalytic reads. For example, Freud’s concept of the “uncanny,”
or Judith Butler’s notions of performed identity and gender could be examined
further here. As such, these two albums would have posed a good opportunity for
Serttaş to further expose the depth of meaning embedded in an archive by
inviting a greater number of artists or writers to lend their personal
interpretations to these images.
As a sizeable volume that
samples an extensive archive, Foto Galatasaray uses portraits to
illustrate the social impact of historical developments in the life of a young
republic. Şahinyan’s portraits reveal how individual subjects may have subsumed
state ideology and cultural norms to integrate them into their individualized
identities, as well as showing us that the act of actively performing
identities for the camera sometimes produced variants on these norms to enable
a greater possibility of subject positions. It also shows how the shifting
demographics of Istanbul in the 1980s played a significant role in the
emergence of identity politics in Turkey in the 1990s, charting how the more
homogenous Kemalist ideal of Westernized modernity in the earlier 20th century
transitioned into one that had the potential to account for ethnic, religious
and class differences in later decades. Where the book may fall short is in
fully exploring the depth of meaning embedded in such an abundant archive.
Opening the archive up to different readers, even those who may not have had
cultural ties to Istanbul, may have produced a greater diversity of
interpretations, perhaps maybe enabling it to exist beyond its national
framework to enter into more transnational dialogs about migration and belonging.
Perhaps that is the task of a second volume on Foto Galatasaray, one that can
be published once this archive is able to find a permanent home. AMCA / Berin Golonu - Review of Foto Galatasaray: Studio Practice by Maryam Şahinyan Berin Golonu on "Foto Galatasaray: Studio Practice by Maryam Şahinyan," by Tayfun Serttaş (Istanbul: Aras Yayıncılık, 2011), 374 pages, softcover, in Turkish and English.
Foto Galatasaray’s biggest achievement lies in this
magical experience humble venue bequested to the history of women. Maryam
Şahinyan is the woman as the eye behind the aperture. The existence of this
extraordinary actor lays open to discussion the uniqueness of Foto Galatasaray
archives in photographic history. Since its launch photography crowned as the
most modern of arts yet its relation with women is contrary to its transforming
power. Lenses have never been off the women aesthetically since the beginning
yet women have not found their place among the actors behind the viewfinders.
Thus it should be remembered that not just studio photography, but as a whole,
history of photography has evolved in the male dominant tradition. When the
topic is photography, women as the object looked upon rather then the subject
doing the looking, have played this role throughout the century.
When I learned of a woman who have carried a life
long occupation in a sector under the monopoly of men as studio photography,
the first thing that sprung to my mind was whether İstanbul had a Julia
Margaret Cameron carefully tucked away somewhere. Classic history of
photography had no other example, how could this significant information be
kept a secret for so long? Unless Şahinyan too chose to keep herself a pace
back under the technical attack just like Cameron experienced all her life? Her
images also had slight focusing problems, small fingernail scratches, and
shutter speed diffractions yet perhaps secreted much more inherent artistic
enactments. How was it possible to discern a studio’s manner through a female
photographer’s predilections. Photographer and the photographed when left to
their instinctual reflexes at that ominous moment, whose role determined the
scene? How did the female identity of the photographer contribute to the studio
archive? Was there any source available in this context now? Till the arrival
to the Şahinyan archive, these were some of the numerous questions even after all
the images were analysed that were linked one after the other on the unique
position of hers. Not just specific to İstanbul, but, as I was sure it was
never witnessed in any of the neighbouring cities it was an amazing reference:
We have a woman studio photographer with her archive that has survided intact
to this day!
And we never knew.
By a contemporary scrutiny, Şahinyan’s career easily
can be transformed into a heroic, feminist legend. However before attempting
the process by today’s standards, let’s look at the social factors, which
helped shape Foto Galatasaray, in its context.
The extent of a culture of segregation (women in
harem and men in selamlık) roots deep in the early Ottoman life has to be
considered in regarding Foto Galatasaray. This tradition rising on separate
spatial and instrumental criteria for men and women forms the basis of the
social conditions on which the studio is built. Thus to assume Şahinyan
purported to expand the professional capacity of women or brought a new
discourse to feminist perception would be a presumption. Before determining the
studio’s place in the women’s history it has to be ascertained how female
identity was positioned at that venue.
First attempts at the archive of Foto Galatasaray
showed not just the photographer but the photographed to be mostly women. This
is a major factor not seen in any of the other studios of the time; one male to
ten female customers! In the cultural atmosphere of the day keeping in mind
that how comfortable in interacting or how much were women posing for men, it
was inevitable for this humble venue to become significant. In front of
Şahinyan many women with all their mimics and figure, with bare shoulders hair
flowing or even in underware posed uninhibitedly. I am sure many women freely
entered the studio in the security of knowing the photographer was a woman. It
has to be underlined that Foto Galatasaray clearly has captured the essence of
its time sociologically. Female identity of Şahinyan was an advantage in
providing the clientele.
Maryam Şahinyan was remembered with her resiliency.
Through out the photograph’s past female studio photographers maybe not be more
than a handful and among them Şahinyan is unique in her survival in her career
to the end. Working at her studio for threescore years was not a hobby of
leisure. All her life she carried the struggling responsibility of a carreer
deigned on her. And she was not rewarded or it, I believe. In the light of what
is left of her endeavours of sixty years we are now starting to appreciate
while it lets us to reproduce its own knowledge of visual history other then
the male perspective. Remedying almost the history of those who have been
neglected in records. This miracle redress is why we owe a rather big apology
and thank you to her now; to Maryam and her female companions...
PS:First exhibition of Foto
Galatasaray was realized between the dates of 22 November 2011 and 22 January
2012 at SALT Galata / Açık Arşiv (Open Archive), which recreates the visual
images made by Maryam Şahinyan (1911, Sivas - 1996, İstanbul) between the years
of 1935-1985 at her studio in Beyoğlu, Galatasaray. Closer to two hundred
thousand negatives have been classified, cleaned, digitalized, restored, and
cathegorized taken into preservation by a team under artist/researcher Tayfun
Serttaş in three years.
Foto Galatasaray’ın büyük mucizesi, bu mütevazı
mekandan kadın tarihine miras kalan o sihirli deneyimde yatar. Objektifin
arkasındaki göz olarak kadındır, Maryam Şahinyan. Bu sıradışı aktörün varlığı,
Foto Galatasaray arşivinin fotoğraf tarihindeki en özgün pozisyonunu tartışmaya
açar. Ortaya atıldığı andan itibaren sanatların en moderni olarak taçlandırılan
fotoğrafın dönüştürücü gücüne tezattır kadın ile olan ilişkisi. Estetik olarak
fotoğrafın ilk günlerinden itibaren objektifin önünden eksik edilmeyen kadın,
objektif arkasındaki aktörler arasında yerini bulamaz. Bu nedenle ki, salt
stüdyo fotoğrafı değil, tüm bir fotoğraf tarihinin erkek egemen gelenek içerisinde
şekillendiğini akılda tutarak başlamakta yarar var. Konu fotoğraf olduğunda
kadın, bakan “özne” olmaktan ziyade bakılan “nesne” olarak yüzyıl boyunca
kendisine biçilen rolü oynar.
Türkiye’de bir kadının hayatı boyunca stüdyo
fotoğrafçılığı gibi erkek tekelinde bir mesleği sürdürdüğünü öğrendiğimde,
aklıma gelen ilk soru İstanbul’un bizlerden itinayla sakladığı bir Julia
Margaret Cameron’u olup olmadığı üzerineydi. Klasik fotoğraf tarihinde
neredeyse başka örnek yoktu ve böylesine önemli bir bilgi nasıl olup da gizli
kalabilmişti? Yoksa Şahinyan da, mesleki yaşamı boyunca Cameron’un kadın
olmasından kaynaklanan teknik eleştiriler altında hep bir adım geride kalmayı
mı tercih etti? Onun da fotoğraflarında hafif odak problemleri, küçük tırnak
izleri ve enstantene kırılmaları vardı da, sanatsal açıdan çok daha içkin
mizansenler mi gizliydi? Kadın bir fotoğrafçının tercihleri üzerinden nasıl
belirlenebilirdi bir stüdyonun tavrı? Fotoğraflayan ve fotoğraflananın
içgüdüsel refleksleriyle başbaşa kaldığı o tekinsiz anda, yaratılacak sahneyi
kimin rolü belirliyordu? Fotoğrafçının kadın kimliği, stüdyonun arşivine ne
gibi ayrıcalıklar katıyor olabilirdi? Hali hazırda buna dair bir kaynak var
mıydı? Şahinyan arşivine ulaşana dek ve arşive dair tüm imajlar analiz edildikten
sonra dahi onun bu özel pozisyonu üzerinden ardı ardına birbirine eklemlenen
binlerce sorunun ilk halkalarıydı bunlar. Yalnızca İstanbul özelinde değil,
civarındaki çoğu kentin tanıklık etmediğine emin olduğum kadar şaşırtıcı bir
referanstı bu; “arşivinin tüm parçaları günümüze ulaşan bir kadın stüdyo
Ve ondan bihaberdik.
Bugüne dair bir okumayla, Şahinyan’ın mesleki yaşamı
kolaylıkla bir feminist kahramanlık efsanesine dönüştürülebilir. Ancak sürece
günümüz kriterleri üzerinden yaklaşmadan önce, Foto Galatasaray’ı şekillendiren
toplumsal etmenleri o günün koşulları içerisinde anlamaya çalışmakta fayda var.
Foto Galatasaray üzerine düşünürken, kökenleri erken dönem Osmanlı yaşantısına
dek uzanan bir haremlik selamlık kültürünün uzantılarını hesaba katmak gerekir.
Kadın ve erkeğe özgü mekansal ve araçsal kriterlerin ayrımı üzerinden inşaa
edilen bu geleneksellik, stüdyonun yapılandığı toplumsal şartların zeminini
meydana getirmektedir. O nedenle ki, Şahinyan’ın kadınların mesleki fonksiyonlarını
genişletme iddiasında olduğu ya da kadın fotoğrafçı olarak feminist anlayışa
yeni bir söylem getirdiğini düşünmek önyargı doğurur. Stüdyonun kadın tarihi
içerisindeki yerini saptamadan önce, kadın kimliğinin o mekana nasıl
İlk teknik incelemeler yapıldığı andan itibaren Foto
Galatasaray arşivinde sadece fotoğraflayanın değil, fotoğraflananların da büyük
oranda kadınlardan meydana geldiği saptandı. Dönem stüdyolarının hiçbirisinde
rastlanmayacak boyutta ciddi bir farktı bu; on kadın müşteriye karşı, bir erkek
müşteri! O günün kültürel koşullarında kadınların erkek fotoğrafçılarla ne
kadar iletişime geçtikleri ya da onlara ne derece rahat poz verdikleri hesaba
katıldığında, bu mütevazı mekanın kadınlar için önem kazanması haliyle
kaçınılmazdı. Şahinyan’ın karşısında birçok kadın tüm yüz mimiklerini
kullanarak, omuzlarını açıp, saçlarını dökerek hatta iç çamaşırlarıyla rahatça
poz verdi. Eminiz ki birçoğu stüdyoya fotoğrafçının kadın olmasının sağladığı
güvenle girip çıktı. Bu açıdan yaklaşıldığında, Foto Galatasaray’ın dönemin
sosyolojik koşullarıyla tam bir uyumluluk yakaladığının altı çizilmelidir.
Şahinyan’ın kadın kimliği, stüdyonun müşteri portföyünü belirlemesi birtakım
Dirençli mizacıyla hatırlanıyordu Maryam Şahinyan.
Fotoğraf tarihi boyunca sayıları bir elin parmaklarını geçmeyen kadın stüdyo
fotoğrafçıları arasından da ilginç bir biçimde sıyrılarak, mesleki
sürekliliğini yaşamı boyunca sürdürmeyi başarmıştı. Şahinyan’ın 60 sene boyunca
o stüdyoda süregiden uğraşları, boş zamanlarını değerlendirdiği bir hobiden
ibaret değildi. Hayatı boyunca, kendisine lutfedilmemiş bir mesleki mücadelenin
sorumluluğunu da taşıdı. Bundan dolayı sanırsam hiç ödüllendirilmedi. Bugün
ondan geriye kalanların ışığında, üzerine söz söylemeye başladığımız bir 60
yıl, aynı zamanda erkek bakışından ayrıksı bir görsel tarihin kendi bilgisini
yeniden üretmesine olanak tanıyor. Kayda geçirmeyi ihmal ettiklerimizin
tarihini, adeta telafi ediyor. En çok da bu mucizevi telafiden ötürü kocaman
bir özür ve de teşekkür borçluyuz şimdi; Maryam’a ve onun kadın
Not:İlk gösterimi 22 Kasım 2011 - 22
Ocak 2012 tarihleri arasında SALT Galata / Açık Arşiv’de gerçekleşen Foto
Galatasaray, 1935’ten 1985’e kadar Beyoğlu Galatasaray’daki stüdyosunda
kesintisiz olarak fotoğrafçılık yapan Maryam Şahinyan’ın (1911, Sivas - 1996,
İstanbul) tüm mesleki arşivinin yeniden görselleştirilmesi üzerine kuruludur.
Arşivde yer alan 200 bine yakın negatif, sanatçı/araştırmacı Tayfun Serttaş’ın
oluşturduğu bir ekip tarafından üç yıllık bir sürede tasnif, temizlik,
sayısallaştırma, sayısal restorasyon ve kategorizasyon aşamalarından geçerek
THAT MAGAZINE'in bu sayıdaki kapak konuğu Maryam Şahinyan.
Vasıf Kortun'un "The Archive Cannot Wait" başlıklı yazısı ile birlikte.
The Archive Cannot Wait
The archive of Maryam Sahinyan is neither the first personal collection
of material SALT Research has been involved with nor is it likely to be the
last. The particular case of Sahinyan demands uniquely different approaches to
archiving, as should be the case for the transfer of any mass data from one
habitus to another. This includes considerations such as how to handle
material that seems inevitable to its owner and at best quirky to most
archivists, how best to form relationships between sections of the archive, and
to understand how unique ecologies are inverted, re-sorted and re-configured in
this transfer. Much is compromised when archive organizers loose the delicate
negotiation between pre-existing generic ordering procedures and the
idiosyncratic discipline of a particular set of material. New international
standards, EU standards, and in general professional standards try to bring
order to what can essentially remain happily in disorder.
are too valuable to be categorically entrusted to institutions that preserve
them in the name of public good. Such authors are handed the license to
manipulate and monopolize archival discourse under the guise of scientific
methods. They can comfortably perform arrogantly by keeping information from
the public eye by citing their lack-of-readiness. Who bestows them the
authority to do so? Certainly there is more to it than sheer custodianship or
tend to open archives only when the pertinent issues they could divulge have
lost vitality and their potential transformative energy. Nostalgia is a victor
mourning for the vanquished, and those who offer archival material as nostalgia
acquire immense cultural prestige. But, it is not merely enough to watch, or be
a witness to a moment, a person, or a time disappearing. In a particularly
biting scene in “Sweet Movie” the director Dusan Makveyev inserts abruptly a
scene of documentary footage taken by the Nazis in 1943. It is of the
exhumation of bodies in the Katyn Forest; the 10,000 Polish officers massacred
in 1939 by Soviet soldiers, an event blamed on the Nazis. The footage ends with
a text: "Let us think of these things always. Let us speak of them
never." These words were written on February 11, 1944 to Anthony Eden, the
British Foreign minister, by Sir Owen O’Malley, British Ambassador to Poland.
Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin decided never to speak of this mass murder.
But, the corpse is a protagonist, and history does not hold much meaning unless
its story is also recast to the future. It is often the Institution's very own
agenda, the way it broadcasts, the way it performs the archive that we watch so
attentively. Many a good institution along with the rise of an online Cultural
Commons are putting dent in what used to be this smooth, unquestioned space
occupied by self-appointed gate-keepers.
Istanbul, the Maryam Sahinyan Archive had been asleep, waiting to be surfaced
and made meaning of for nearly a quarter of a century under the custodianship
of Yetvart Tomasyan who rescued hundreds of boxes of photographs from being
dumped in the alleyway garbage in front of Sahinyan’s studio Foto Galatasaray.
This opening tale is an all too common story of a time when liquidation by
financialization was not yet an option. Nostalgia-tourism had not yet hit its
high-time in auctions, supported by hordes of dealers and archive peddlers who
could see no harm tearing whole archives apart with the knowledge that
divestiture produces a more profitable competitive market. Dealers also know
that it is easier to sell under the radar to many individuals and many places
rather than selling a whole archive to a major institutional caretaker.
Fortunately, the Maryam Sahinyan Archive was in good hands and it remained
complete. Here is a moment when patrimony does matter and excels as a good
next phase of the story sees the archive move on to Tayfun Serttas, an artist,
activist and a researcher. Serttas had proven more than his worth with his
meticulous research and publication project on the photographer Osep Minasoğlu [Stüdyo
Osep] even if the practice and positioning of Maryam Sahinyan and Osep were
was known about Sahinyan, she looked like a diligent, no frills studio
photographer with a methodological use of props and sets, poses and gestures
that she employed with the rigor and precision of a conceptual artist. It was
not possible to extract her presence from anecdotes, memories, or photographs.
There were no stories to be retold, no sharp edges to be unearthed. She was a
loner, who worked, and lived a quiet life in her own way. She was in essence
Sahinyan's Foto Galatasaray was not as well known as other studios such as Foto
Sabah or Foto Süreyya not to mention their 19th Century predecessors like Sebah
et Joallier or Abdullah frères. Other than four ID card photographs of herself,
Sahinyan was invisible, hidden behind a camera for a good fifty years
processing over 200,000 images during this time. Her position appears neutral
and yet how will the archive speak to the ethnic, social and economic
transformation of her subjects? How will it tell the story of the shift
from the commemorative, painterly, democratic group portrait to the un-ordained
passport photograph? How did her customer base shift? Can the archive be read
as a map as it traces certain voids of communities such as those that are known
to have occurred with the introduction of the property tax law in 1942 aimed at
obliterating business that was not ethnically Turkish; the formation of the
State of Israel in 1948; the government provocation triggering the lynches and
lootings of 6 - 7 September, 1955; the military intervention in North Cyprus in
1974; or the opposite - a surplus of peoples from the unwavering exodus that
moved from Anatolia into Istanbul? In the future, will dancers and performance
artists produce work that mimics the body language and postures of the subjects
Sahinyan shot? Will designers learn from the provincial creativity of the
dresses and suits worn by her sitters? Will friends and kin or even the
subjects themselves recognize themselves in their first communion, graduation
or wedding? Will the onlookers be left speechless, angry, humiliated, joyful,
on in this process, Serttas approached SALT to participate in the research of
the archive and act as the partner institution for the development of the
project. Initially and instinctively, SALT entrusted Serttas with the
composition of the archive and positioned itself only as a support structure,
allowing the process to unfold and pursue its own natural course without an
overly controlling position taking hold. SALT did not want to
"own" the archive, far from it, the archive should neither be propertied
nor completed. In fact, for all its worth, the only true value of an archive
lies is in its future use. Nothing more, nothing less. In effect all those
involved wanted to learn the archive, learn from the archive and for the
archive to learn itself again. SALT chose to participate in a more speculative,
open-ended, gay, passionate and post-academic research that was at the same
time deadly serious and resolute.
are several roles that Serttas as the interlocutor took on: the scientific
restorer who cleaned, stabilized, digitized and digitally restored with his
assistants many thousands of images for nearly two years; a researcher of the
life and times of Maryam Sahinyan; an artist who has for the exhibition
inventoried novel scenes of looking at the images and invented new narratives;
and an activist who has mobilized the power of these images to tell a
devastating tale of the lost communities of Istanbul.
the publication of this book, and the realization of the Maryam Sahinyan
Archive exhibition, the protagonists will not solely remain Maryam Sahinyan,
Tayfun Serttas or SALT, and the archive will not solely remain in the care of
fact-obsessed academics. Instead, it will be opened online to the tagging and
identifying of the photographed subjects by relatives and acquantainces,
researchers and users.
* Kortun, Vasıf “FOTO GALATASARAY – Studio Practice by Maryam Şahinyan”,
Tayfun Serttaş (ed.), Aras Yayıncılık, İstanbul,
November 2011, p. 12-14
Artist, writer and researcher Tayfun Serttaş lives in Istanbul and Bodrum. He graduated from the Istanbul University Social Anthropology Department in 2004 with a thesis on “Urban Anthropology”. He completed his masters at the Yıldız Technical University Art and Design Faculty Interdisciplinary Art program in 2007 with a thesis titled “Photography And Minorities In Istanbul In The Context Of Modernism And Cultural Representation”. Since 2000 he has taken part in numerous domestic and international academic projects. Themes he works on include urban anthropology, gender, the cultural heritage of the other, the critique of civil society, the sociology of everyday life, minorities, urban transformation, immigration and change, socio-political strategies and minor politics.