The first Turkish photography studio in Beyoglu

by Taha TOROS

When photography was first introduced to Turkey in the 19th century, the objections of a few religious zealots meant that at first Muslims were not among the Ottoman photographers whose studios sprang up in Istanbul. Even the people being photo- graphed were mainly non-Muslims.

The first Turkish photographers in the Ottoman Empire worked in provincial cities such as Salonika and Izmir.

 The first Turkish photographer who opened a studio in Istanbul (at number 59 Cagaoglu Hill) was Bahaeddin Bey. He had first opened a studio in Crete, then moved to Izmir where he opened the Resne Studio. Subsequently he left this studio in the hands of a relative, Hamza Rustem Bey, and settled in Istanbul, where he changed his name from Bahaeddin Baritki to Rahmizade Bahaeddin.

 Although numerous Turkish photography studios opened in Istanbul in later years, none was to be as long lived or famous as that established by Ferit Ibrahim Bey. Ferit Ibrahim Bey devoted 53 years of his life to this new art, as both newspaper and war photographer, not to mention his work as a cinema operator, painter and musician.

This artistic man of many talents also founded the first photography club in Turkey, the headquarters of which was the beer hall in Istanbul's Sirkeci Station, on 9 September 1908 following the second proclamation of the constitutional government.

He studied painting under the famous Turkish artist, Hoca Ali Riza Bey and painted landscapes in oils and watercolors. Between 1908 and 1910 he founded the Venus Music Society, which still exists today in Uskudar and was one of the founders of the Oriental Music Society in Kadikoy.

 Ferit Ibrahim was born in Uskudar in 1882. His father Ibrahim Bey, a government official in Damascus, died when he was a young child. After graduating from secondary school in Uskudar, Ferit Bey studied law, going on to receive his doctorate.

Although he was appointed to a post at the Council of State, his love of art, photography and music proved overwhelming, and he resigned. Ferit Ibrahim Bey's mother, Asiye Hanim, played a significant role in her son's decision to become a professional photographer when she bought him a camera as a reward for his high grades at school when he was 16 years old.

Ferit Bey ordered magazines and books from abroad about photography and so kept up with the latest developments in this rapidly advancing technique. His photographs were published in such famous early 20th century Turkish magazines as "Sehbal", "Resimli Kitap" and "Yeni Gazete", and in some European magazines.

 Soon his photography business was doing so well that he decided to open a studio. As the wars in Tripoli and the Balkans drew to a close he moved his equipment from his house to premises in Sirkeci, opposite the main post office. When he joined the fighting in Galicia as a military photographer during the First World War, he closed the studio.

 In 1919, he opened a new studio in Beyoglu, where there was already a number of photographers all non-Muslims.

 In 1925, two years after the establishment of the Turkish Republic, Ferit Ibrahim Bey was invited to Ankara, the new Turkish capital. Cemil Uybadin, a friend of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk from his home town Salomea and the war college, introduced him to Ataturk and proposed that he make a film about Ankara and be appointed presidential photographer.

In 1925, Ferit Ibrahim Bey closed down his studio in Beyoglu and moved to Ankara. He took many photographs of Mustafa Kemal and his colleagues, before he became homesick for Istanbul and returned to open yet another studio on Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu.

 On the wall he hung large signed photographs of Mustafa Kemal.

 In his old age, he moved his studio to Kadikoy, where he died in 1953. Ferit Bey's son, Naim Goren, followed in his father's footsteps to become one of the prime photographers in Ankara. As a young man he had accompanied his father to Ankara where he opened a shop in downtown Ulus selling photography equipment and processing films. Before long he was the best known photographer in the city.

When it came obligatory for every adult citizen to take surnames, father and son chose different names, Ozgunar and Goren respectively.

Naim Bey loved the country and built a house in Kucukesat, a district long since swallowed up by the city sprawl. In those days, this was an area of scattered country houses surrounded by orchards and gardens. His house was at the last stop on the municipal bus route, and buses ran only two or three times a day. This stop was named after the famous photographer by Ankara Municipality.

 Late in life, Naim Goren moved back to Istanbul, where he died on 17 August 1977.

The hundreds of negatives of photographs which Ferit Ibrahim Bey took in the early years of this century, particularly those depicting the First World War and the years of the occupation, have never been found. This sad loss is still felt by historians and those interested in the history of Turkish photography.

Tue, 24 Sep 96