179. Today in 1920s Turkey: 4 May 1926 (Advertisement for Portable Cameras)
(Advertisement, Cumhuriyet or “The Republic,” 4 May 1926, no. 714, page 6.)
Fotoğraf meraklılarına tebşir-i mühim
En ucuzundan pahalısına kadar mebzul çeşitli fotoğraf makinelerini ancak Mehmet Ruhi müessesesinde bulabilirsiniz. İstanbul Asmaaltı Yaldız Han, 537-2
Important good news for photograph/photography enthusiasts
You can find abundant varieties of cameras, from the cheapest to most expensive, only at Mehmet Ruhi’s establishment. Istanbul Asmaaltı Yaldız Commercial Building, 537-2
Historical periodicals print and disseminate a vast range of content that can aid in reconstructing and understanding modern societies of the past. Advertisements in particular provide unique insights into the commercial and material landscapes of bygone eras. The rise of photography in Turkey, for instance, can be deduced from the increased inclusion of photographs in journals and digests and in the proliferation of illustrated gazettes in the 1920. But other material indicators such as the increased availability and even affordability of cameras constitute important chapters in the story of photography’s spread. As such, newspaper advertisements for cameras can reveal useful information about the history of photography in Turkey.
Today’s advertisement for cameras or “photograph machines” (fotoğraf makineleri) occupies a small space on the paper’s last (sixth) page which features thirty other ads and announcements. Like today’s publishing industries, ad revenues helped offset the paper’s cost of operation while making certain brands, products, and businesses visible to their readers, for a price. Some of the kinds of products advertised in these papers include luxury toiletries, fitness supplements, automobiles, gramophones/phonographs, and even male girdles.
The camera advertisement employs a picture to attract the attention of readers and presumably, to enhance the desirability of the product. The relatively compact contraption includes a handle at the top and a hatch that swings open to reveal a gadget with a lens. This appears to be based on a standard accordion style fold-out model from the 1910s and ‘20s. The picture takes up about half of the space for the ad and thus holds the same weight as the information relayed by the text, suggesting that it is the allure of the imagery of the gadget that may direct eyes to the text or seller's information itself. The text addresses “photograph/photography enthusiasts” and notifies them of the availability of a broad range of cameras from cheap to expensive and furnishes potential buyers with the local, Istanbul address of a certain Mehmet Ruhi who trades in these wares.
Other content from periodicals of the 1920s corroborate the ubiquity of photography at this time, especially in the cosmopolitan culture capital of Istanbul. Today in 1920s Turkey has analyzed a number of examples that demonstrate the multiple dimensions of exposure to this technology and art form. For instance, the legal requirement for I.D. cards to include photographs is the premise for a cartoon from 1923 (see post #53.) Whereas a cartoon from 1925 satirizes a street-corner photographer (see post #30, suggesting instant photography to be a growing service in Turkey and one that is performed in public and thus highly visible to all. Other content, such as readers’ photograph competitions, attest to the growing availability of photographs on a mass scale and show how photographs were used by readers for the sake of self-promotion (see post #152.). In this way, it is possible to view today’s advertisement as but one node in a much larger, growing eco-system surrounding photography and photograph consumption in 1920s Turkey.
(Entire page, Cumhuriyet or “The Republic,” 4 May 1926, no. 714, page 4. Hakkı Tarık Us Collection, Beyazıt Library, Istanbul.)