Artamonoff Collection Shows Istanbul and Western Turkey In Photographs, 1935-1945

This collection is a bit too small to be one I’d normally cover, but when Harvard announced it last week I found the pictures to be compelling, and wanted to make sure you knew about it. The new collection is called the Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection, and it features 543 photos taken by Artamonoff between 1935 and 1945, at sites (archaelogical sites, and ruins) in Istanbul and western Turkey. The collection is available at

The photographs can be browsed in toto, via a map, via a tag cloud, or with a keyword search. I looked at the tag cloud and chose brickwork, for which I got 61 results.

The pictures are presented in a grid with location, thumbnail, and brief description. The individual item pages show larger pictures (but I wish they could be larger, I feel like I missed a lot of detail), date taken, more extensive description, and in many places a Google Map so you can get an idea of what the area looks like now. The announcement of this collection notes that a lot of these sites and monuments have fallen into disrepair or have vanished completely.

In addition to the photographs, there is also a biography of the photographer and a list of sites where the pictures were taken.

I have no idea why these images resonate with me so much. They seem almost haunted, but at the same time they occupy a landscape that is determined to be ordinary (note the imposing exterior of the St. Mary Pammakaristos, before its restoration, with what looks like a string of laundry in the foreground. I’m not much of a critic in these matters but I think it might also be that Artamonoff was a pretty damn good photographer — he was able to take both detailed and long-range pictures without losing any context.

The collection is small enough to browse; if the images themselves were larger this collection would be absolutely incredible. As it is it is well worth a visit if you’re at all interested in history or archaelogy.

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