~ Shop ~




A set of three photographs, made in the Ottoman Empire, but distributed by a photographic studio Joseph (Papazian) from Iran, touches a little researched subject of documentary photography trade in the Middle East in the late 19th century.

The motifs of the photographs concentrate on the formation of controversial Hamidiye Cavalry, which was at the time responsible for the massacre of the Christian population in Diyarbakır vilayet.


3 photographs: albumen prints, each circa 17 x 23 cm (6.7 x 9 inches), contemporary mounted on thick cards: 21 x 27 cm (8.3 x 10.6 inches), verso with stamps “Photographer Joseph”, accompanied with the Persian symbol of the Lion and Sun.

Slightly age-toned, old hand-written titles in pencil in French in the lower margin, one photography also with an Ottoman annotations, pin-holes in margins, small chips in margins of cards and images.


Additional information



1. “Corps de Cavelerie Hamidié”

[Corps of the Hamidiye Cavalry, but actually: Ertuğrul Cavalry Regiment of the Imperial Guard, Davutpaşa Barracks, Istanbul]

[S. l., S. d., but, Istanbul: early 1890s or around 1895].

2. Kurdish Hamidiye in Diyarbakır

[S. l., S. d., but Diyarbakır, 1895].

3. A group of Ottoman dignitaries with Giritli Sırrı Paşa and Zeki Pasha watching the formation of the Kurdish Hamidiye in Diyarbakır and the benediction of the Hamidiye flag.

[S. l., S. d., but Diyarbakır, 1895].


Hamidiye Cavalry

The main subject of our set of three photographs is the Hamidiye Light Cavalry and the events around 1895.

The Hamidiye, named after sultan Sultan Abdulhamid II, was an official military formation, founded in the beginning of the 1890s in the Eastern borderlines of the Ottoman Empire, mostly on the Russo-Ottoman frontier. The soldiers were mainly Sunni Kurdish, but also Arabs, Circassians, Turks and Turkmen.

As the primary goal of the Hamidiye was to defend the borders from the Russians, the cavalry soon turned against the local Christian population, mostly Armenians and Assyrians, resulting in infamous massacres, made between 1894 ad 1896, mostly in 1895 in the Diyarbakır vilayet.

The first image in our set was wrongly titled as the Hamidiye Cavalry, but it actually represents the Ertuğrul Cavalry Regiment, or the Imperial Guard in Istanbul, which was not connected with the Hamidiye.

Library of Congress houses a photograph with the same motif, signed by the Abdullah Frères (click here for the image: [Ertuğrul Cavalry Regiment of the Imperial Guard] / Constantinople, Abdullah Frères. – LOC’s Public Domain Archive Public Domain Search (getarchive.net)). This indicates, that our series was probably made by an Ottoman photographer, connected with the Abdullah Frères in Istanbul and exported to Persia, where the set was sold in the shop of photographer Joseph Papaziyan in Tehran (for details please see below).

The other two photographs represent the formation of the Hamidiye in Diyarbakır and can be according to the newspaper articles, containing images from the same series, dated in 1895. The second photograph showcases gathering of the Kurdish Hamidiye Cavalry around the fountain of the military fortress of Diyarbakır.

The third photograph was made at the event of benediction of the Hamidiye flag in Diyarbakır, in 1895. The two men, marked in Ottoman and French script on the bottom (1. Sırrı Pacha vali de Diyarbakır 2. Le marechal Zeki Pacha, de la 4e Armée ) were two of the most recognizable Ottoman military dignitaries of the time. Giritli Sırrı Pasha (1844-1895) served a governor of several vilayets, including Diyarbakır, and attended this event only shortly before his death.

The man marked with no 2 is Mehmed Zeki Paşa (1846 – 1929), a Müşir (equivalent to marshal of the Ottoman Army) and a founder of the Hamidiye. He also played the main role in the Armenian massacres of Diyarbakır of 1895.


“Photographer Joseph”

The stamp on the back of all three photographs quotes the name “Photographer Joseph” accompanied with the Persian symbol of the Lion and Sun, a sign, which was from 1808 on awarded to foreign officials, who had offered distinguished services to Persia.

The photographer is possibly identical to Joseph Papaziyan (also Joseph Papazian or Hosik Papazian) of Armenian origins, who learned the art of photography in Tbilisi. After opening his studio in Tabriz he relocated to Tehran around 1875, where he mostly photographed theater scenes, members of the court and architecture. Papazian was awarded the symbol of the Lion and Sun (Shir-o Khorshid) by the shah.

Not much is known about Papazian, who was probably active between circa 1870 and 1900. Only a handful of his photographs survive in Tehran archives.

In the case of these three photographs Joseph was most probably not the author, but rather the importer of this documentary material from the Ottoman Empire and distributer in Tehran. This opens an interesting and not well documented topic of photography trade in the Middle East.

In the late 19th century Persians would not only be interested in seeing images of a new Ottoman cavalry being formed on their borders, but would also follow the rumors and official information of suppression of the Armenian and Assyrian Christian population in the borderline regions.

Additional information