Reimagining A Lost Homeland: Ottoman Era Photographs from the Dildilian Studio


The exhibit, which is co-sponsored by Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives and on display until April 9th, highlights the work from the Dildilian family’s business: a photography studio first founded in 1888.

Unlike many of the more well-known photographers of the Ottoman Empire who practiced in Constantinople, the Dildilian family worked primarily in central Anatolia and the Black Sea Coast. The family business was first founded by Tsolag Dildilian in Sivas, or historic Sepastia, and studios were opened across the Empire over a period of 30 years in cities like Amasya, Konya and Adana.

The family was able to survive the Armenian Genocide because the Ottoman military and civilian authorities needed their skills as photographers, and the Dildilians were allowed to remain in their hometown of Marsovan under the condition that they convert to Islam and adopt Turkish identities.

Dr. Armen T. Marsoobian, a descendent of the Dildilians, is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Southern Connecticut University and has authored a number of books on the Armenian Genocide and his family’s photography, including the new release “Dildilian Brothers – Memories of a Lost Armenian Home: Photography and the Story of an Armenian Family in Anatolia, 1888-1923.”

Marsoobian has generously thanked “Gary Lind-Sinanian, curator of the Armenian Museum of America, whose expertise in mounting the exhibition is gratefully acknowledged,” as well as Ruth Thomasian, and the staff and volunteers at Project SAVE, who “have been of invaluable assistance over the years.”

Marsoobian has organized exhibitions in Istanbul, Merzifon, Diyarbakir, Armenia, the U.S., and the U.K. based upon his family’s Ottoman-era photography collection.

More than 900 photographs and glass negatives survived the period, along with family member’s memoirs describing events and life during the tumultuous and tragic period of the Massacres and Genocide.

Approximately 150 enlarged reproduction photographs make up the exhibit, with subjects ranging from family members, community streets, buildings and colleges, hospitals, orphans, and atrocities from the Genocide, all accompanied by extensive eyewitness accounts from Dildilian family members.