Photography, which has a history dating back to the 1850s, experienced a rapid development during the early decades of the Republic Period. New techniques developed in the West were imported and the press started using photographs extensively. Turkish photographers of the period started to take pictures of the daily life of people, towns and cities and historical buildings in Turkey. Landscape photography also developed. The first photography competition was organized in 1932. Meanwhile courses in photography were included in the curriculum of schools and photographers’ associations were established in the 1930s.

Cemal Isiksel, Nurettin Erkilic, Selahattin Giz, Limasollu Naci, Sinasi Barutcu, Ihsan Erkilic and Baha Gelenbevi are the first important photographers of the Early Republic Period. The first seeds of artistic photography were sown by the generation of artists who were raised in the 1950s.

One of the most important photographers of this generation is Ara Guler, who looks at local subjects from the point of view of a contemporary artist and with remarkable skill. Recognized as a distinguished artist not only in Turkey but throughout the world, Ara Guler, who is regarded by some critics as being among the best ten photographers in the world, has also taken pictures for various world-famous photography magazines. Ozan Sagdic, a press photographer who has also taken promotional photographs, produced original works illustrating various parts of Turkey. Gultekin Cizgen, who made extensive use of localmotifs, attracted attention with his graphic works and his photographs dealing with social subjects. Sahin Kaygun, who exhibited a rather unique approach to photography with his incessant search for originality, used fantastic, symbolic and graphic styles; exhibited his polaroid works and became the pioneer of this technique in Turkey. Atilla Torunoglu in black and white photographs, Mustafa Kapkin in studio-tricks, Halim Kulaksiz in color pictures, Reha Guney in architectural photography, Fikret Otyam in journalism and Sami Guner in tourism photography, are among the other noteworthy photo-graphers in contemporary Turkey. Ersin Alok, Semsi Guner, Sabit Kalfagil, Isa Celik, Sakir Eczacibasi, Cengiz Karliova, Ibrahim Demirel, Halim Kulaksiz, Mehmet Bayhan, Cerkes Karadag, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ramazan Ozturk and Coskun Aral have also attracted attention and acclaim with their works.

The oldest and best-established photography organization in Turkey is IFSAK (Istanbul Photographers and Cinema Amateurs’ Association). Similar associations such as AFSAD-Ankara, AFAD-Adana, Foto Forum-Trabzon, and KASK-Kocaeli also have influential activities.


Photography was one of the major technological discoveries that contributed to the rise of modernity in the 19th century. It was introduced to the lands of the Ottoman Empire by travelers and became widespread in the end of the 19th century. The first professional photography studio in Istanbul was established in 1845 by Italian brothers Carlo and Giovanni Naya. Vasilaki Kargopoulo was the first Ottoman to establish a studio in 1850. Following the 1860s, the number of such studios increased significantly, and they were mainly located around the Pera and Kadıköy districts in Istanbul. Some of the principal photographic studios were operated by Greek Christians and Italians, as well as by photographers of Armenian descent such as Pascal Sebah, Polycarpe Joaillier and the court photographers Abdullah Frères, who opened their studio in 1858 and upon whom were bestowed the title Ressam-ı Hazret-i Şehriyar-i by Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876).

Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909) had an interest in photography and took photographs himself. During his reign, the art of photography developed rapidly in the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan commissioned photographers to document events and principal institutions in the country. In 1884, he ordered Kamil Pasha, Minister of Police, to set up a studio and take photographs of all the prisoners in Istanbul. In 1893 Sultan Abdülhamid II sent 51 photograph albums to the Library of Congress in the United States and 47 photograph albums to the British Museum in England to introduce the Ottoman Empire. In January 1894, Sultan Abdülhamid II ordered a fully equipped photographic studio to be set up in the Yıldız Palace and appointed Ali Rıza Bey as studio director. Sultan Abdülhamid II’s photography albums consist of photographs taken by six photographers showing schools and other scenes in Aleppo, Damascus, Adana, İzmir, Çankırı, Denizli, Baghdad, Edirne, Manisa, Aydın, Bursa, İzmit, Thessalonica, Kastamonu, Trabzon, Beirut and Istanbul. A significant part of these albums can currently be viewed at Istanbul University’s Central Library and OIC-Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) archives. More than 8,500 images depicting Turkey can also be found in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC).

Portrait photography was generally preferred by the elite class in the beginning, with the sultans and their families and statesmen having their portrait photos taken. At the end of the 19th century, photography was embraced by other social classes as well.

One of the first Turkish Muslims who opened a photographic studio in Crete was Rahmizade Bahaeddin. He was also active in the first half of the 20th century as a pioneer photographer in Istanbul. There were also Turks active in the photography business in several other cities in Turkey. Kitabi Hamdi Efendi (Bookseller Hamdi), the Turkish owner of a printing house in Trabzon, was publishing his photographs (and those of others,) and he sold cameras as well. Another Turkish photographer and postcard editor who was active from the late 19th century in Trabzon was Osman Nouri. Into the 20th century, numerous Turkish photographers became active in and outside of Turkey.