Sun 14, December 2003

History of iranian photography

Early Photography in Iran;By:Mohammad Reza Tahmasbpoor


Nâser-od-din, the Photographer King
Photography and its various forms emerged in Iran three years after its emergence in Europe (i.e. from 1839 in France). The first photographs, in the form of daguerreotypes, were made during the reign of Mohammed Shah Qajar by Nikolaj Pavlov (One of the young Russian diplomats) in Dec1842. Nâser-od-din Mirza, a thirteen-year old prince, during Mohammed Shah’s reign, can be counted amongst the first to have his image preserved in daguerreotype form, and his interest in this new and  exciting science was aroused.(Picture no 1)

In the years before he came to the throne, he was first fascinated by the photographs brought to Iran by foreigners. With the arrival of Mr. Carlhian in 1859, Nâser-od-din Shah became more actively involved.(Picture no 2)
Pictures and photographers were fascinating for him and photography becomes his obsession. He reserved an area of his palace for photographer’s laboratory so that it became the first official photography studio in Iran. As a result, photography, gradually, acquired an official function with specific tasks performed during the journeys, official ceremonies, and celebrations of the state. His first photographs were based on the Collodion process, and had subjects such as the women of the harem, servants and the buildings of the royal palace in Tehran. (Picture no 3)

Travelling to Europe and seeing the photographs taken there had the effect that the shah, to an even greater degree, supported photography and its development. Through his royal support, a unique pictorial record of this long period of Iranian history was preserved. (Picture no 4)

This royal patronage resulted in the purchase of photographic equipment, the teaching of photography, and the support of the writing and publication (in Persian) of treaties on the science and aesthetics of Great attention was paid to gathering pictorial records of the different parts of Iran by means of government agents, who went on photographic missions to the far -flung areas of the country.In later years, political matters prevented the shah from greater involvement in photography, but his desire to view photographers, to have photographers taken of his favorite subjects, and to learn more about the subject did not diminish. (Picture no 5)


Pictorial Reports during the reign of Nâser-od-din Shah of Qajar (1850-1895)
Emergence and development of photography in Iran as well as realizing its useful and functional applications were mostly due to interest, attention, and support Nâser-od-din Shah Qâjar paid to this newly developed art and technique. Actually, because of his great emphasis on this technique and its different aspects, Nâser-od-din Shah can
Be referred to as the founder of many branches of photography in Iran.(Picture no 6)

Documentary photography, innovated at the early years of Nâser-od-din Shah’s monarchy (after 1850) under his support, was developing by depicting travels, hunting, and other subjects of the king’s interest. He delegated photographers to the places that he was not able to go himself. A summary note was usually written to the photographs taken in these occasions, which included the subject, time and place of the travels, hunting, etc. “Pictorial Reports” is the term which is applied to such photographs. The pictorial reports of this kind included the following subjects: (Picture no 7)

The king’s travels inside and outside the country, taking photographs from different states of Iran, photographs donated to the king by authorities, pictures of ancient buildings and locations, photographs served for people’s identification, official affairs of the court, pictures of the penal and political prisoners and convicts, ceremonial festivities, military forces, people’s daily life, their jobs, and so on. (Picture no 8)

The historical comparison of the growing and developing trends of photography in the 19th century proves that the pioneers of this technique and art in Iran made wonderful efforts. (Picture no 9)


A Quick Glance at the History and Application of Photography in
Archaeological Excavations in Iran

The addition of about 351 photographs taken (between 1889-1891) by the French archaeologist Jacques de Morgan, to the Album Room of Golestan Palace is the reason for writing this article on the first photographers of ancient relics and their explorations in Iran. The origin and development of archeology in Iran can be studied through an examination of photographs, memoirs, and books from the beginning of Nâser-od-din Shah\'s reign. (Picture no 10)

The unsuccessful mission of Jules Richard in 1850 to photograph Perspolis monuments, the photographs taken by Luigi Pesce’ in 1857 of Perspolis, Pasargad, and Naqsh-e Rostam, Calhian and Aqa Reza Akkasbashi photographs of the ancient ruins of Khorheh in the vicinity of the city of Mahallat, and other ancient and historical relics, such as Gonbad-e Soltanieh, Masjed-e Kabud  in Tabriz, the Ray tower, the Falak al-Aflak castle in Khoramabad, etc. are among the first efforts to chronicle and document a pictorial record of the historical and ancient relics of Iran. (Picture 11)

The study of these photographs enables us to follow the origin of the first archeological excavations in Iran as well as to follow the path of the photographers who took pictures of these ancient and historical monuments during the middle years of Nâser-od-din Shah’s reign. It should also be noted that many of the structures eternalized in these pictures no longer exist today. (Picture no 12)

At the end of the article, the researcher discussed the historical and documentary significance of the De Morgan's photographs by highlighting his scholarly activities. (Picture no 13)


The Techniques of Representing and Displaying Photographs in the
Qajar Era
(Picture no 14)

The beginning of photography in the world and its development occasioned the criticism and bitter reaction of painters. For this reason, the inherent benefits of photography were not discovered. Thus when this art first appeared, photographers tried to imitate the work of the artists. When at last photography was accepted as a legitimate art form, it found its own distinct characteristic separate from painting. (Picture no 15)

Daguerreotype as the earliest attempt at depicting a precise picture had many limitations especially because it was impossible to reproduce pictures taken by this method. Because of this limitation when photography first began, the public looked upon the daguerreotype plate as an antique object. Since the silver covered daguerreotype plate was sensitive to light and the picture could not be reproduced, it was placed in a leather frame, which could be closed to prevent the penetration of light to the surface of the Daguerreotype. (Picture no 16)

These frames were decorated very elaborately and the size of the sensitive plate determined the form and size of the frame. Later with the development of other methods in photography, such as 'talbotype' and 'wet plate', and the possibility of reproducing large numbers of photographs, it became necessary to keep and to present these pictures appropriately. The first albums were made to meet this need, and photographs were arranged according to the taste and preference of the public. The improvement in presentation of photographs made framing essential. Thus photography followed the ancient tradition of framed paintings. By imitating the form and appearance of these frames, which had been made since the Renaissance, the frames of photographs also became more ornate and there border decoration more and more elaborate. (Pictur no 17)

The advancement in the technique of photography including 'vignetting' made the presentation of photographs similar to that of paintings. Other technical innovations such as the 'Carte de visits', and 'cabinet card', opened the way to a more general form of presenting photographs. Photography in an enclosed studio and the use of painted backgrounds were also another step in the presentation of photographs. All these methods underwent great many changes in Iran and Europe simultaneously. (Picture no 18

The chronological development of these methods- their emergence and their evolution-is the concern of this study. Moreover, the aforementioned methods were traced in photographs and books left from Qajar era. The unique Album Room of Golestan Palace along with its wonderful albums, and interesting methods of representing and displaying photographs in Qajar era were also the concern of this article. (Picture no 19)


Some Unknown Books and Manuscripts on the History of Photography

Books on photography printed in the Qajar era (the post 1856 period) are the first written documents/manuscripts on the technique and art of photography in Iran. These books that were used primarily as sources for technical and academic training played a significant role in the advancement of the theoretical and practical knowledge of photography during that era. (Picture no 20

These books mainly presented an account of the technical and practical methods of photography; however, few of them which proposed some philosophical and artistic attitudes in photography were considered as pioneer works.The art and technique of photography originated and developed in Iran during the Qajar era. To understand its history it is important to study the books and manuscripts on photography written during that period. At the time significant evolution in methods of photography, film development, print and equipment, the design of tools,  and sensitive materials in the world as well as in Iran made a significant impact on photography in this country. (Picture no 21)

The names of several important books and written sources on photography are not found amongst the books that have been so far introduced by even well-known scholars such as Dr. Iraj Afshar and professor Zoka. During the author’s recent research in libraries in Iran and Syria, he discovered several hitherto unknown books. In this article the author introduces six of these books written between 1863 to1895. His research, furthermore, clarifies some of the ambiguities in existing sources.( Picture no 22)

Daguerreotype in the Books and Texts on Photography in Qajar Era

Photography in Iran started late during the reign of Mohammed Shah of Qajar dynasty. The method of photography used then was Daguerreotype that involved using silver sheets that were sensitive to light. No original document has been found on this method in Iranian books and other writings of that period. The researches and historians of photography in Iran have been faced with some difficulties in this regard. (Picture no 23)

This article reviews evidences concerning the arrival of Daguerreotype in Iran in books and other texts that date back to the period between the reign of Mohammed Shah and that of Ahmad Shah of Qajar dynasty and bases conclusions on logical
Foundations. (Picture no 24)

It also includes a survey into the methods used in this type of photography and the proper names that have remained in Qajar era books. At the same time it calls on the public to share their original Daguerreotype prints in order to shed light on this ambiguous part of the history of photography in Iran. (Picture no 25)


The Selection of Technical Words and terminology in Photography
In Iran since 1854

The rapid development of photography in the world occasioned the invention of numerous technical terms concerning this art and its technique. The momentous emergence of photography in Iran and the courtiers\' strong support of this art resulted in its rapid expansion, first among the princes and courtiers and then amongst the public. This in turn motivated a new literary style, which could be termed “literature of photography.(Picture no 26)

During the Qajar era, especially during the reign of Nâser-od-din Shah more than 15 books and manuscripts on photography were composed or translated into Farsi from English and French. These authors and translators attempted to replace European words with Farsi equivalents. However appropriate utilization of these technical and scientific terms have not been studied hitherto and are being discussed in this article.
In this article, an attempt was made to trace the development of these terms and their equivalents in written and spoken language. Further attempt was made to study the etymology of the words and expressions coined for photography in Iran. For this purpose, the researcher has taken into account almost all the written sources during the Qajar era on photography, and the development of new terminologies in Europe. The invention of new terms has been followed chronologically according to the date of the publication of the books in question. (Picture no 27)

Some of the technical terminologies and their Farsi equivalents are as follows:

Safhe-e-Noghre     Daguerreotype
Akkasi                     Photography
Adasi                      Lens
Dourbin-e-Akkasi   Camera
Aks-e-Manfi           Negative
Aks-e-Mosbat        Positive
Akkas                    Photographer
Aks                        Photograph


Literary Events in Books and Manuscripts on Photography during the Qajar era

Photography in Qajar era owed its sources to two factors. First the rapid development and ever increasing popularity of photography, second the special importance placed upon the composition and translation of technical and artistic subjects for increasing the knowledge of photographers including the Shah himself. These reasons motivated writers and translators and photographers to write useful books on the art of photography. (Picture no 28)

The composition and style of these books were inspired by the Iranian technical literature, which in turn had evolved significantly over the centuries. During Naser- od-din Shah’s reign the language of these books became simpler, although in writing decrees, letters or poems eulogizing the king, a complicated prose in the old literary style were still used. (Picture no 29)

In writing books, the authors used to use a simple language to describe the main technical topics. However, because these books were generally gifts to the king or his relatives, they contained complicated introductions full of literary irony using at the same time specific photographic terminology. The elaborate composition of these introductions reflects how the authors and translators were amazed by the art of photography. These literary introductions also include technical terms for tools and equipment, as well as physical and chemical reactions used in the art of photography.


Changing route of portrait photography in Iran

Photography in Iran began with portraiture and first photos were taken with Daguerreotype method, were Mohammad shah Qajar, Royal family and some courtiers.Photography method made possible to prepare easily objective image of world, had important role to actualize the dream of everlasting of people pictures. (Picture no 30)

In Iran as other parts of world rapidly developed photography then following it portraiture in Iran portraits and having an image of him with ideal beauty, they were also the strongest motivation among this technique eager. (Picture no 31)

The first photographs advocated to royal court of Naser-odin Shah included illustrative history of different stages of life- from youth till old age and some ones from child hood till youth Wonder and influence of photography in Iran is as far as that Iranian painting had influenced for several hundreds years. Painters especially portraitures accept certain changes for presenting those works have been inspired by photography.(Picture no 32)

The limitations of painting were also an element for painters and designers, and designers for showing much fact to present. Printing works in newspapers and books, based on similarity of photo for their works when public photographers’ studios began to photography influence on middle classes to have an image of them. (Picture no 33)

Some major titles in this essay are:
1. The tradition of portrait painting in Iran “Ideal Beauty”.
2. Beginning of photography in Iran with Daguerreotype method.
3. Wet plat and next progress in technique.
4. The first portraits (in open space) and photographer’s studios’ portraits.
5.  Formal portraits of characteristic people.
6. Common people portraits.
7. Photographer’s studios and great photographers of portraits in Iran.
8. Accessories of photographer’s studio (decorations and furniture’s, backgrounds, tools, hand coloring, lighting,

9. Portrait photograph affect in portrait painting and printing in Media
10. Mobile photographer's portrait.
11. Portraiture in constitutional revolution.
12. Appearance of cultural changes in portraits.


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| Early Photography in Iran;Mohammad Reza Tahmasbpoor | Women as Photography model: Qajar period | Postcards in Qajar Period | Window on an Era |
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