The story of the discovery and identification of Nicholas V. Artamanoff’s photographs of Istanbul is an impressive tale of archival research and detective work (check back for the story in an upcoming post). This collection of images, about 1000 in number, is spread among a number of repositories in Washington, New York and Istanbul, and despite the great detective work carried out so far, there is a great deal we will never know about this collection.
Artamanoff’s photographs of the Byzantine monuments of Istanbul and archaeological sites in western Turkey are of great value to scholars of pre-Ottoman Turkey, but it is the photographs of Istanbul that are the focus of this project. Taken in the 1930s and 1940s, they show the city during a period which has been little studied, and for which there is a very scanty visual record.
Despite their potential importance, Artamanoff’s photographs of Istanbul are not without challenges as a research subject. Sites were not identified, the photographs are not specifically dated, the circumstances in which they were taken are not known, and it is extremely likely that we possess an incomplete set of Artamanoff’s work.
All of this makes these photographs a perfect case study for a digitally focused study. What might we learn about this collection by applying tools of digital analysis to the photographs? Mapping the locations of Artamanoff’s subjects on a map of Istanbul, linking the sites to contemporary images of the same places, analysing the kinds of monuments and streetscapes Artamanoff favored–all of this could give us insights into the city in which he worked.