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Ottoman Turkish Collections in the Library of Congress

Abdul-Hamid II Collection of Photographs

Abdul-Hamid II (1842-1918) was an early adapter of photography and took an active role in creating photographic albums. As a promoter of photography, he appears to have conceived the work as a portrait of his empire for a western audience. He presented a collection of albums to Library of Congress in 1893 or 1894. He also gave another almost identical collection to the British Museum (now in the British Library).

The Library's collection contains 1,819 photographs in 51 large-format albums date from about 1880 to 1893. They portray the Ottoman Empire during the reign of one of its last sultans, Abdul-Hamid II and highlight the modernization of numerous aspects of the Ottoman Empire. Most of the places depicted are within the boundaries of modern-day Turkey, but buildings and sites in Iraq, Lebanon, Greece and other countries are also included.

Well-known Ottoman commercial photographers such as Abdullah Frères, Sébah & Joaillier, and Phébus took the bulk of the photographs. Turkish military photographer Ali Riza Pasa and the Photographic Unit of the Imperial School of Engineering also contributed numerous images.

View highlights from the collection in the gallery below.

Abdul Hamid II Photograph Collection Highlights