Photographers Of Ataturk

Seyit Ali Ak
This article printed in "Gosteri Dergisi, May 1983, No: 30"  under the title "Ataturk Fotografcilari" is electronically published in interactive museum of Turkey by the permission of the author.

Photographs of Ataturk are the documents of difficulties, pleasures and pains of creating a nation. Those who left these documents within limited possibilities have striven to realize their duty to later generations. Unlikely, it cannot be said that they have showed sensitivity preserving their works. The negatives of the photographs taken by Etem Tem who entered Izmir together with the Turkish Cavalrymen were burnt down in a fire. Very special photographs of Ataturk and the Independence War by Esat Nedim Tengizman were also burnt down in his wooden house at the district of Cicekci in Uskudar in August of 1979. Today, one may appreciate the Ataturk Portraits by Photo Sureyya only in few shops of Istanbul. What have happened to the archives of many artists like Photo Muhasin and Photo Zafer, besides Photo Hilal, one of the first photographers of Ankara who took the photograph of Ataturk in uniform when he received the titles of Marshal and Ghazi after the Sakarya War? The negatives taken by Jean Weinberg, a Romanian Jew and the owner of "Foto Francais / Photo French", are buried in the darkness of history with his emigration to Egypt after him being banned of taking photographs of Ataturk because he kicked on purpose the photography tripod of Cemal Isiksel during the celebrations of the evening of the Republic Holiday at Ankara Palace in 1929.

Two of our photographers have participated to the Independence War as supplementary officers. Esat Nedim Tengizman, one of these, was a officer of Supreme Military Command Photography. He was entrusted as a war photographer with the command of Ataturk such as "Let us bring a war photographer along this death and life struggle. Find me such a person." Etem Tem, a graduate from "Mulkiye / school for civil servants", was the photographer of the West Fronts. Tem became a newspaper photographer for a while in Istanbul after the war, then opened a photography studio at Ankara in 1932. One of his assistant masters, Muharrem Lafci, says: "Uncle Etem was a great man. His dressing was chic. He would calculate immediately the tax of all Ataturk photographs he had sold, would take it and deposit. He was careful paying salaries of those working for him till the last cent. He was loyal to photography and open to novelties." He died on the January of 1971. We learn that in his last years there was 620 squares of negatives in his archive about Ataturk and that this archive was sold to M. Erem Calikoglu and Yilmaz Dinc in 1982 by his wife Melek Tem who had financial problems. After the Declaration of the Republic the first photographer of Ataturk we see is Cemal Isiksel. He is the son of Professor Hasan Fehmi Efendi who had composed the fatwa / declaration prepared against the Istanbul Government. He took his first photograph of Ataturk while he was setting on a travel to Afyon for the second year celebrations of the Dumlupinar Victory in 1924. He had opened 23 exhibitions of Ataturk photographs, one lasting 7 years in his apartment. The determination to keep Ataturk alive forever through the objective of Isiksel made him the eternal photographer of Ataturk. The album he published in 1969 is the sample the most outstanding of its kind. Falih Rifki Atay states in a writing that "the Deceased Leader had chosen him among all photographers." A photographer who took famous photographs of Ataturk is Othmar Pferschy who had lived in Turkey for 41 years. We must also mention Ridvan Gurari, and Hayri T.Tolgay who took the photograph of Ataturk teaching writing under the Kayseri Watch Tower.

All in all, a population of 12 million worn out by the war, an economy paralyzed, an agriculture made by primitive methods, a few technicians and administrators were left in hand at the beginning of 1923. There was no time to get discouraged. An excitement and dynamism of the revolutions had surrounded everybody right away after the declaration of the Republic which was a new governing manner. The focus of the world was on us. The kings of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Jordan, the Greek Prime minister Venizelos, the head of the U.S. General Staff Douglas Mac Arthur and many others were coming to and leaving Ankara to negotiate with Ataturk. Kamiti from the Roiter, Mavrodi and other representatives from the foreign Press would meet at the "Parisian" Pastry Shop across the Galatasaray High School everyday at eleven o'clock, would evaluate and send the news and photographs they were interested in to their agencies. There were at most 17 to 18 photo correspondents at our Press-Publication organs who were entrusted the duty of announcing the revolutions and the developments in the country. Let us determine this precious staff that frequently took pictures of Ataturk: Ferit Ibrahim (Malumat / Information, Servet-i Funun / Science Wealth, Tasvir / Description), Naim Bey the son of Ferit Ibrahim (Cumhuriyet / Republic), Cemal Isiksel (Ulus / Nation, Cumhuriyet), Namik Gorguc (Cumhuriyet), Cemal Goral (Son Posta / Last Post, Aksam / Evening, Dunya / World), Ali Ersan (Vakit / Time, Haber Ajansi / News Agency, Hurriyet / Freedom), Selahaddin Giz (Cumhuriyet), Faik Senol (Aksam), Hilmi Sahenk (Tan / Dawn, Ulus, Vatan / Country), Cemal Cakus (Anadolu Ajansi / Anatolian Agency), Kenan Hasip (Aksam), Sukru Bey (Aksam), Emin Bey (Vakit), Muhterem Bey (Later a professor in medical school), Etem Tem (Parliamentary of Siirt, the old Milliyet / Nationality Newspaper by Mahmut Bey). Ataturk has shown interest and closeness to these devoted people who did not think anything else than taking good photographs. To give an example, it is enough to glance at the memories of Selahaddin Giz who took over two thousands of frames of Ataturk photographs. "The Police chief of the time, Salih Kilic, asks him not to take any picture of Ataturk on the way out of a theater. So I put away the camera and walked away, sorrily. Then somebody touched my shoulder. He said, His excellency wanted his photographs taken. The great man had understood the situation, and given me an opportunity so I wouldn't be sorry." Many photographers of the time have similar memories. Cemal Isiksel is telling: "A tea was given to the members of the First History Congress at the Marmara Pavilion in 1932. I went there as well. I was waiting for a convenient shot. Ataturk saw me. He turned to the history professors and teachers surrounding him and said that he got rid of all despotism in this country except the despotism of Cemal. Then he asked me how I wanted to take the photograph, how and where to stand."

Three of these photographers mentioned above are still alive while we are celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the Republic. Othmar in Germany, Cemal Isiksel and Selahaddin Giz are living a humble life alone with their precious memories. I would like to finally directlo your attention on the words of Isiksel: "I had law education. My school friends became Courthouse Attorney and Chief of Office of Appeals. If I had gone on in law I would be no different than them." The right pride of Isiksel belongs to all of his colleagues who kept Ataturk and his period alive with the photographs they have taken.