The History of Cypriot
Photography – Part 1
By Ismail Veli
The history of photography in Cyprus is relatively new by Western standards. One article like this cannot even come close to a comprehensive history of this important profession. Most of the famous photographers like John Thompson, J.P Foscolos, Charles & Leopold Glazner, Mangoyan and Avedisyan to name just a few were not even Cypriots. Yet most of the images taken by these great photographers from 1878 to the 1900s are well known to many lovers of old Cypriot photos, but what of the less known to non Cypriots? In fact it’s probably fair to say that Cypriots themselves often know little of each others photographers and often concentrate on their own community. One of my favourite Cypriot photographers is Rene Wideson who has left us images of the 1950s that few have matched in quality.
The first recorded photo images of Cyprus were actually taken by Lois De Clercq, a Frenchman who visited Cyprus with Emmanuel Guillaume-Rey in 1859-60 to study the history of Crusader Castles. Only 3 of these images are known to exist. The Church of Panaghia Anghelostiki in the village of Kiti, Larnaca. The Ottoman fountain in Famagusta, and the Sultan Mahmut Library in Nicosia. It’s therefore safe to say that the history of Cypriot photography started in 1859-60. It’s John Thompsons images of Cyprus in 1878 however that kick started the real push to establish photography in Cyprus.
The pioneer of Turkish Cypriot Photography, Ahmet Sevki first started in 1887. In 1899 he married Ismet Hanim to whom he taught the techniques of photography. They continued to work together as amateur photographers until sometime in the early 1900s when they turned it into a profession. The images they have left us from the early part of the 1900s are testament to their love and dedication in their profession. Others like Ahmet Burhanettin, Foto Necdet & Fevzi Akarsu soon followed. By the 1940s and 1950s many photographers travelled from village to village to take, what for most of us are the early photos of our relatives and village gatherings. Many Cypriots preparing to migrate during the 1950-60s from Cyprus would most often travel to the main towns where studios like Foto Faik, Foto Suleyman ‘Polili’, Foto Yildiz, Foto Isik and Atlas to name just a few became household names. Hardly a family in Cyprus did not attend these studios dotted around the main towns. So while we can rightly talk about the influence of foreign photographers and many great Greek Cypriot photographers like Fanis Parpairis, George Hadjichristou ‘Vatiliotis’, Felix Yiaxis and Andreas Nicolaides, again just to name a few, let us embrace the diversity of talent which includes many TCs in contributing to the images of our past.
If there is one thing Cypriots can at least agree on, it’s that the contribution of photographic images are one aspect of the diversity of talent on the Island that have been captured for future posterity. Long may it live.
To read and see “The history of Cypriot Photography part 2” – click here
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