Polycarpe Joaillier 1848-1904
By Ismail Veli……..
Polycarpe Joaillier a French photographer was based in Constantinople. He was one of the most diverse photographers in the Ottoman Empire.
His photos ranged from scenic, historic and religious buildings, Palaces and above all photos of Middle Eastern natives. Following the death of Sébah Pascal in 1886 he teamed up with Jean Pascal the son of the legendary Sébah. The partnership which was called Sébah & Joaillier went on to become one of the most successful and famous photographic studios in the Ottoman Empire. They were also the official photographers of the Ottoman Sultan. I particularly think their amazing photos of local and upper class people during the period 1890-1900 have left us a clear vision of the way of life, dress, costume, poverty and wealthy individuals that give us an insight into conditions of Ottoman life during the period in question.
In 1889 The German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II with his wife, the queen Augusta Victoria, were on a state visit to Constantinople. Sultan Abdul Hamid II, greeted them as friends. The photographers during their visit were Sébah & Joaillier. The visiting Royals were so impressed they awarded the partners ”The Prussian Palace award for Photography”. This became the studio’s most prized gift for excellence. Sadly Sébah Pascal was not alive to witness this great achievement by his young son and his partner, but must have been looking down from heaven with a smile at the amazing photographic quality he taught his son. In 1901 the Sultan honoured the Kaiser by naming a fountain at the Sultan Ahmet Mosque ”The German Fountain/or Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain”. It was actually built in Germany but brought to Turkey by ship and inaugurated on 27th January on the Emperor’s birthday. The photographers for the occasion were Sébah & Joaillier
Many of the postcards and photos of the studio at the time have been reprinted time and again. On my last visit to the Istanbul Grand Bazaar, I explored the book market just outside the bazaar, to my delight I found some delightful books of Ottoman photos, and reprints of the cards by Sébah & Joaillier. On first inspection I thought the cards may simply be imaginary glimpses of old Constantinople. The reason was because there were many buildings with French and English posters. After closer study and a little research I discovered that many of the foreign shops doing business in the part of the city called Kadikoy were in fact an amazing array of internationally owned and racial diversity which clearly reflected the massive multicultural nature of the city. The Sébah & Joaillier partnership though successful only lasted for 10 years. Joaillier returned to Paris in 1900 and sadly died soon after in 1904.
Many famous images of Constantinople which many tourists buy in the form of postcards today have their origins in the amazing work that the Sébah & Joaillier partnership produced. The Galata Bridge, Agia Sofia, Dolma Bahce, Kucuksu Kasri, the Bosphorus to name a few. Sadly many people today do not know the origins or the history of these great men. But with the growing influence and readily found information on the internet the awareness and legacy of these great photographers will no doubt continue to help raise awareness. That at least is one positive aspect of the internet.