Cyprus has been blessed with many great photographers like J.P Foscolos,Vahan and Ardashes Avedissian, Charles Glasner, Mangoyan, Theodoulos N. Tufeksis, Ahmet Sevki, Fevzi Akarsu, Reno Wideson and frankly we could go on and on.
In this article I would like to celebrate the life and work of Mustafa Diana.
Mustafa Mehmet Salih Okay was born on 20th August 1922 in Nicosia. When a young man in 1940 he began working with another great Cypriot photographer Fevzi Akarsu who happened to be married to Mustafa’s first cousin. In 1945 Mustafa decided to venture out in the world and traveled to Palestine where he began to work for a Jewish refugee who had fled Germany during WW2. The photographers name was Deanna Samuel (Diana). After working for Deanna for 3 years, the turmoil of the Arab-Israeli conflict persuaded him to return to Cyprus.
In 1949 he opened his own Photography studio in Nicosia (The location was where ”Turkiye Is Bankasi” is today). In honour of his Jewish employer who left a massive impact and admiration he decided to name his studio ”Foto Diana”. The name stuck and everyone began to know him as Mustafa Diana.
On 19 September 1949 he entered the first photographic exhibition set up by the British in Cyprus and against massive competition from Greek, Armenian, Turkish and English Cypriots was awarded the winner and awarded the ”Great Success”prize”.
On 23rd August 1952 he married his wife Melek. They had three children together named Mehmet, Koncegul and Dervis.
He subsequently moved to another studio in the Greek quarter near the ”Ballas Sinema”, where he remained until 1958.
The first colour photography studio was opened by Greek studios in 1970, and Mustafa Diana followed by becoming the first Turkish Cypriot in 1972. Mustafa had however learned this particular technique while working for his employer Deanna. Before this period most colour photos in Cyprus were simply coloured over black and white ones. During the turmoil of the 1950’s and 60’s he was always at the forefront of photographic excellence, Archbishop Makarios who became the first President of Cyprus often invited Mustafa Diana to the Presidential Palace for photo takes. His reputation in his field was legendary. In fact many of Makarios’s photos in offices all over the Greek sector were taken by Mustafa Diana.
Though he was known as Mustafa Diana it was only after 1974 when Turkish Cypriots had to take surnames when Mustafa decided to officially change his name to Diana. Sadly due to the inter-communal fighting the Greek authorities never handed him the letters that Dianna Samual had been writing to him. After a 20 year gap he finally learned that Dianna had died and left all her property to German Jewish refugees. In his opinion the biggest tribute to the lady is that her name shall live on in the hearts of all lovers of photography in Cyprus, that is a legacy to be proud of.
Photos used in these article are from the book ”Kibris’ta Fotograf ve Fotografcilik”. By Gazi Yuksel. Our readers can find this book at Işık Kitap evi Nicosia. An amazing book on the history of Cypriot photography. Well worth every penny.