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TOYS AND CHILDHOOD DREAMS
2001 /APRIL
The second half of the 19th century was a time of innovation and change for Turkey, and photography, itself one of the new wonders of the time, reflects many aspects of this phenomenon. Mothers grabbed their children by the hand and rushed them off to the fashionable photographic studios, which were equipped with a range of scenery and stage props to suit clientele of all ages and inclination. Among these were new-fangled toys to capture the imagination of the children of this new age.
Tricycles, dolls, rocking horses, and hoops were just a few of the toys to be found at celebrated studios like Abdullah Fréres, Phébus, and Sébah and Joaillier in Istanbul. Phébus, famous for its child portraits, possessed a horse that became legendary. Nearly a metre high, this beautiful toy horse was brought back from Paris by studio owner Bogos Tarkulyan in the 1890s.
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TOYS AND CHILDHOOD DREAMS
2001 /APRIL
In the studio of the Abdullah Brothers, Photographers by Appointment to His Majesty the Sultan, started off with a tricycle, and soon had an enviable collection of toys.Among the studio equipment used in creating imaginative scenes indoors which appealed to adults and children alike were beautifully decorated boats. Seated in these the subject could give the illusion of having been photographed gliding down the Bosphorus.

The toys which appeared first as studio props soon became available in the fashionable shops of Beyo?lu, above all in the famous Cocuk Bonmar?esi and Japon Ma?azasy. These two establishments sold toys galore for the children of Istanbul's wealthier families, and in time the new fashion for toys spread to the provinces.
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TOYS AND CHILDHOOD DREAMS
2001 /APRIL
Although these shops also sold locally made traditional wooden toys of the kind made by the toymakers of Eyup for centuries, such as tops, whirling toys known as donme dolap, doll's cradles, jumping jacks, tambourines, drums, carts, and rattles, it was not these familiar types which we see in studio photographs of children in large cities like Istanbul, Izmir and Salonica. Instead only toys ordered with excitement and pride from well-known Paris shops had the right aura of glamour to be immortalised in photographs.

The bicycle was a favourite feature of late 19th century studio photography. This invention first attracted the attention of the Turkish public when an American cycled across Turkey on his velocipede. Gokhan Akcura, author of a book about the history of the bicycle in Turkey, tells us, ' On 31 August 1885, Tarik newspaper reported that an American by the name of Mr Thomas Stephens had arrived in Istanbul on his velocipede, and from Istanbul cycled to Izmit.
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TOYS AND CHILDHOOD DREAMS
2001 /APRIL

From there he had travelled in five days to Ankara, where a crowd of over one thousand people, including the governor and city officials had gathered to watch his arrival. At their request he had ridden up and down the road three times, covering a distance of 1200 yards in two minutes and fourteen seconds. Mr Stephens later took his leave of the governor and the officials, and set off for Yozgat.'

For children without a bicycle, a hoop was the next best thing, and both make their appearance in childrn'sn photographs, along with toy horses. For children the chance to sit on those marvellous rocking horses was proably more important than the photograph itself. The hobbyhorse, ancestor of the more sophisticated rocking horse, was evidently no less popular than bicycles and hoops. On into the 20th century, we find aeroplanes making their appearance as the most exciting new piece of studio decor.

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TOYS AND CHILDHOOD DREAMS
2001 /APRIL

The adventurous atmosphere they created is tangible in such photographs, whose scenery for these photographs was so meticulously painted that they provide useful documentary records. The subject appears to be flying over cities spread out below, depicted with convincing realism.

These delightful photographs taken in photographic studios fitted up like theatres, and with toys to enhance the illusion, carry us into the imaginative world of childhood. On bicycles, wooden horses, boats or planes, children could dream they were journeying to far-off lands. So adventure awaited the children who set off for the photographer, dressed in their best clothes and holding their mother and father by the hand.

 

Yusuf Caglar is a writer

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