30 Nisan 2013 Salı


bir süredir cüretkarlık değil,
masumiyet beni tahrik ediyor. 

25 Nisan 2013 Perşembe

艺术与设计 Foto Galatasaray: The Social Dimension of Photography / Ian Yang 发送

艺术与设计 Art and Design Magazine in China 
"Foto Galatasaray: The Social Dimension of Photography" - Ian Yang 
Page: 172 - 175  (April 2013) 

23 Nisan 2013 Salı

garoun a / bahar

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..

O deliklerde yaşar.

Her bahar, 24 Nisan geldiğinde üşüyenlere;    

Foto Galatasaray@RTL television of Netherlands

for LINK

21 Nisan 2013 Pazar

interview with Aylin Kartal@SALT Galata


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.

Konstantinos Kavafis

18 Nisan 2013 Perşembe

Foto Galatasaray@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.

Many 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.
With 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.
Şahinyan’s 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.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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.

16 Nisan 2013 Salı

bitiyor, bitecek elbet!

Güneş Apt. / Nisan 2013

12 Nisan 2013 Cuma

11 Nisan 2013 Perşembe

Maryam Şahinyan@İZ

İZ Dergisinin bu sayıdaki kapak konuğu Maryam Şahinyan. 
"Foto Galatasaray; woman to woman" başlıklı yazım ile birlikte.


Foto Galatasaray: woman to woman

Tayfun Serttaş

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.


Kadın Kadına; Foto Galatasaray

Tayfun Serttaş 

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 fotoğrafçımız vardı!”

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 konumlandığı değerlendirilmelidir.

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 avantajlar sağlamıştır.

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 arkadaşlarına...

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 korunmaya alınmıştır.

Maryam Şahinyan@THAT MAGAZINE

THAT MAGAZINE'in bu sayıdaki kapak konuğu Maryam Şahinyan. 
Vasıf Kortun'un "The Archive Cannot Wait" başlıklı yazısı ile birlikte. 

The Archive Cannot Wait

Vasıf Kortun

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.

Archives 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 academic clout.

Institutions 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.

In 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 thing!

The 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 worlds apart.

Little 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 indiscernible.

Maryam 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, or humored?

Early 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.

There 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.

After 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