Ottoman Arcadia: The Hamidian Expedition to the Land of Tribal Roots (1886)

"Ottoman Arcadia" focuses on three volumes of photography albums commissioned by Sultan Abdülhamid II via an official expedition in 1886, which were gifted to the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The original photographs bearing handwritten informative captions in Ottoman Turkish and French on them will be on display for the first time alongside with the documents, images, and publications from various collections.

The album photographs document dramatic landscapes, towns, monuments of the early Ottoman settlements like Yenişehir, Söğüt, Bozüyük; and the first capital of the empire, Bursa. The native inhabitants of the region –particularly the last remaining members of the semi-nomadic Turkmen tribes (yörüks/yürüks)- are also recorded in the albums. Through the strong, persuasive capacity of photography, the exhibition reassert foundational myths and authenticate the remote tribal origins of the ottoman dynasty. Following the documentary traces of the 1886 Expedition, Ottoman Arcadia investigates the ways in which the layered deposit of memories attached to the land of Ottoman origins was reclaimed through the agency of photography.