NICOLAS ANDRIOMENOS (Ottoman Empire, Costantinople 1851-1929 / act: Constantinople)

Nicolas Andriomenos Born in Costantinople in 1851, Nicolas Andriomenos was an Ottoman Greek who learned photography in the 1870s from Cosmi Abdullah. At that time Cosmi operated a studio of his own at 99 Kökçüler in Beyazıt, but turned the business over to Andriomenos in late 1879, after which its new proprietor soon made it into one of the city's most prestigious portrait studios. Andriomenos served an impressive clientele of prominent members of Istanbul's Greek and Turkish communities and was also on good terms with the court, having taught photography to Crown Prince Vahdeddin. Encouraged by the success of his business, in 1895 Andriomenos decided to open a new branch in Péra too, at 283 Grand Rue de Péra, opposite the Hazzopulo arcade. This opening was the occasion for the magazine 'Malumat' to publish a photograph of Nicolas Andriomenos in its September 1895 issue (herewith illustrated). The new studio resulted in a significant increase in the volume of business. In 1909 Andriomenos relocated his Péra studio to number 162, a building adjacent to the Halep apartment house. The Beyazıt studio remained in operation at the same address until 1912 when it moved to number 13 on the district's main street. His son Athanasios, who was born in 1901, worked alongside his father in the business in the 1920s. Andriomenos died in 1929. Athanasios, whose Turkish friends affectionately called him 'Tanaş', continued doing portrait photography at the Beyazıt studio, under the name 'Foto Saray', until 1955 when he moved to Athens, where he died in 1988.

Photographs that Andriomenos exhibited at an international exposition held in Athens in 1903 won him a medal. He was particularly skilled in the use of daylight in portraiture and indeed all of the photography that he did until 1920 was done in sunlight. When business was good at the studio, the artist employed as many as seven or eight assistants at a time, some of whome - men such as Theodore Nikoleris, Yorgo Kesinis, Yannis Alevridis, and Mihail Mavrakis - went on to become professional photographers for themselves. But though he was an undisputed master of portraiture, Andriomenos' venture into the photographing of Istanbul scenery and everyday life ended up as a huge fiasco. Hoping to repeat the earlier successes of studios such as Sébah & Joaillier and Abdullah Frères in this sort of photography, Andriomenos acquired a 27x33cm format camera in 1895 at a cost of three hundred gold pounds and set about shooting pictures in different parts of the city. What he had failed to take into account was the fact that the days when it was possible to make money from photographs of Istanbul's monuments and street sellers had long since passed. Not only was the market saturated with such images already, it was also plagued with cheap, low-quality pirated copies of established studios' work - including Andriomenos' own - that sold for as little as twenty piasters apiece. Andriomenos eventually gave it up but not before sustaining huge losses and unfortunatel waisting a great deal of time taking pictures numbering more than two-hundred-sixty negatives.

[Bahattin Öztuncay 2003, p.307-309]

XANTHAKIS, ALKIS X. History of Greek Photography 1839-1960 1994 Kastaniotis Editions, Athens, p. 92 [Greek]
ÖZTUNCAY, BAHATTIN The Photographers of Constantinople: Pioneers, Studios and Artists from 19th Century Istanbul 2003 Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul