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Stu­dents, pri­vate school Mekteb-i Edeb-i by the Abdul­lah broth­ers
Another find in the Library of Con­gress is the Abdul­lah Frères col­lec­tion, fea­tur­ing school pho­tographs which spon­ta­neously nested them­selves in the visual cor­tex (i don’t know if it exists, I am mak­ing this up as I go) between August Sander and Vanessa Winship’s series of Rural School­girls from the bor­der­lands of East Ana­to­lia. The instantly strik­ing dif­fer­ence between the two series of sweet noth­ings, as Vanessa calls them, is the inter­ac­tion between the fig­ures. In the 19th cen­tury, we see no bod­ily con­tact between the girls, placed side by side by the pho­tog­ra­phers, with many of them hold­ing a book or paper in their hands. We learn noth­ing of their friend­ships, as we do in Win­ships por­traits, and where the ‘school’ aspect is mostly indi­cated by the uni­form dress they are wearing.
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Stu­dents, pri­vate school Hadikatül-Maarif by the Abdul­lah brothers
It’s very tempt­ing to talk about a shift in pres­ence man­i­fest­ing itself in these two bod­ies of work, com­par­ing the con­tem­po­rary girls with those from the Ottoman gen­er­a­tion. How­ever, we can­not assume that the abyss we feel is sep­a­rat­ing Abdullah’s por­traits from Winship’s Sweet noth­ings, is of an exis­ten­tial nature and only con­cerns the sub­jects of the pho­tographs. What’s more, we can­not even assume that felt abyss is actu­ally there; it might be noth­ing but a feel­ing, con­jured up by the dif­fer­ences between pho­to­graphic tech­niques and visions applied.
abdullah4.jpg Stu­dents, art school for girls Üskü­dar Kiz Sanayi Mek­tebi by the Abdul­lah brothers
But what is funny, is that in the end it was Winship’s series hav­ing imprinted itself so strongly on my visual cor­tex which has sen­si­tized me to these vin­tage school girl por­traits. In a way, her images have actu­al­ized the work of the Abdul­lah frères, made it acces­si­ble for me in a new way. That is an aspect of pho­tog­ra­phy, and a poten­tially pow­er­ful one, which gets but lit­tle notice. So yes, the work of the Abdul­lah frères is the same it ever was, it’s the same but also dif­fer­ent when viewed through the ‘Win­ship filter’.