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THE EARLIEST SURVIVING PHOTOGRAPHS OF ASIA MINOR
Asia Minor is the westernmost part of Asia, now part of modern Turkey and usually known by the Greek name, Anatolia. It has been a melting pot for several ancient civilizations, ruled in turn by the Hittites, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and Persians, and becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. It remained under Ottoman rule until the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1922. Its location, a broad peninsula at the western tip of Asia and on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, made it a major centre for trade between the two continents. The region is rich in ancient archaeological sites and examples of Classical and Byzantine architecture, the cultural legacy of its complex history.
The first photographs of Asia Minor were made by Frederic Goupil-Fesquet (1806-1893). He set sail from Marseille only two months after the invention of the daguerreotype, accompanied by the painter Horace Vernet (1789-1863) and his nephew, Charles Marie Bouton. He made daguerreotypes at Izmir (Smyrna) in early February 1839. None of his daguerreotypes from Asia Minor have survived. The first daguerreotype studio is reported to have opened in Istanbul in the summer of 1842.
Girault de Prangey, taking a break from the heat of Egypt, arrived in Asia Minor in the spring of 1843. In a letter dated 22 April, he wrote "J'arrive en ce moment de la Troade on ne peut plus satisfait mais c'est avec un autre espoir, je l'avoue, que je me dirige maintenant vers Magnésie, Sarder, Hiérapolis, Aphrodisias, Magnésie du Méandre, Milet, Mylase et environs, en m'écartant le plus souvent possible des routes ordinairement suivies."
From the evidence of the daguerreotypes existing in his archive it seems that he achieved the majority of his aims, although the results here imply that he perhaps encountered more technical problems than in either Italy or Greece. These could have been caused by adverse climatic conditions, the impurity of the water or the difficulty of obtaining adequate supplies.
No earlier photographs of these sites have been recorded to date.
1. Letter to Désiré-Raoul Rochette reproduced in Quettier, P. et al., Girault de Prangey 1804-1892, p. 84