Art and Culture

Tribute to the Cyprus photographer, Mustafa Diana

By Ismail Veli……..

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.

Mustafa Diana’s wife Melek

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.

Kibris’ta Fotograf ve Fotografcilik 30

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.

3 replies »

  1. Wow what a story. I had the pleasure of meeting him as my fathers workplace was very close to Dıana’s Photo Studio. My fam’l’es last photo was taken at his studio before my departure to Australia. Excellent interesting article as always , thanks Ismail veli/

    • Thank you for your kind comments Sermen. What a pleasure it must have been for you to meet such a great photographer

  2. I had the pleasure and honour of knowing him when i lived 50 meters from his studio in Arsinoi Street , now the Greek side of Nicosia. We left our home and moved to the Turkish side of Lefkosa due to EOKA Terror in 1958! He continued his studio about 150 meters from Ledra Palace Hotel on the TURKISH side!

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