Chronological Order

Thematic order


Maryam Şahinyan

Maryam Şahinyan

Turkey's first professional Armenian woman photographer
"48 years, 1139 boxes filled with negatives, near to two hundred thousand images and a wooden bellows camera from the time of the first World War."

Date of Birth: 1911

Place of Birth: Sivas, Turkey

Date of Death: 1996

Place of Death: Istanbul

Burial Site: The Armenian cemetery, Şişli, Istanbul



Maryam Şahinyan

Field of Activity

"For nearly 20 years on the second floor of the Hidivyal Palace on İstiklal Street in the 15 square metre storage floor, nine big packages with parcels of books heaped on top of them containing 1139 boxes full of negatives, have been waiting for me. In the place where they were forgotten, despite being lost, being in the same state as when they were left."
Tayfun Serttaş, the first Maryam Şahinyan researcher, Tayfun Serttaş blog
"Maryam Şahinyan for half a century, wihtout failure, walks to and fro from her house in Şişli to her studio. Every noon she eats only a single red apple. Without taking off her black work smock and work mittens she continued to take black and white photographs with her bellow camera which was left from the First World War until 1985. She continued this work quietly and without being noticed... I have seen a lot of photograph archives but I have never seen an archive which looks as if it has been set up carefully like one was arranging one's dowry, with every single item numbered, with Indian paper placed between each one, a which has not been changed or touched for half a century." (Tayfun Serttaş)
Lara Fresko, "İstanbulluları Hüzne Boğabilir", Radikal, 13.12.2011.
"Maryam Şahinyan differed from her siblings as from a young age she learnt all the fine details of photography from her father and from the year 1937 she decided to run her father's photograpghy studio on her own. This situation proved to gain various advantages for the studio as many Istanbul women who lived in the conservative conditions of the time saw this as the reason of choising her. And in her career which spanded half a century, she worked continuously in three separate venues in Galatasaray where she ran her studios."
(Tayfun Serttaş)
Berna Akcan, "Tayfun Serttaş İle Röportaj: Maryam Şahinyan, Foto Galatasaray", Fotoritim e-Fotoğraf Dergisi, 1/2012.
"It is obvious that Maryam Şahinyan did not judge anyone. Due to this everyone, just as they were, came to her. The cities most chic women, non-Muslim families, Russians who had fled from the Bolshevik era to Istanbul, theatre groups, musicians, officers, baptised or circumcised children, transsexuals, couples on their wedding day, women in their underwear and little girls who grab their skirts from either side to make themselves butterflies.."
Karin Karakaşlı, "Zamanı Bekleyen Fotoğraflar", Radikal 2, 11.12.2011.


"Maryam Şahinyan was newer awarded."
(Tayfun Serttaş, a Maryam Şahinyan researcher)


(No information available)


Esayan Primary School, Istanbul

Sainte Pulchérie French High School, Istanbul (She did not complete it)

Contributions to Society

"She was close friends with many nuns, Italian Catholic Sisters, Priests who moved to Istanbul to work with various institutions and the Armenian Kalfayan Orphanage and throughout her life gave these communities free service."
Tayfun Serttaş, the first Maryam Şahinyan researcher, Tayfun Serttaş blog

Family and Friends

  • Mother: Dikranuhi Abacıyan
  • Father: Mihran Şahinyan (The owner of Foto Galatasaray Photography studio.)
  • Sisters: Zabel Şahinyan, Araksi Şahinyan, Zıvart Şahinyan
  • Brothers:Keğam Şahinyan, Sebuh Şahinyan, Vruyr Şahinyan
  • Grandfather: Agop Şahinyan Paşa (The MP for Sivas in the Ottoman Empire's first parliament in 1877)
  • Friends:

Commemorative Projects

Exhibition in Maryam Şahinyan`s Memory

Foto Galatasaray, 22.11.2011 - 22 .1. 2012, SALT Galata, İstanbul

About the project Foto Galatasaray SALT Galata internet site

The exhibition Foto Galatasaray

Foto Galatasaray – Açık arşiv (Open Archive)

The Foto Galatasaray project is based on the re-visualisation of the complete professional archive of Maryam Şahinyan. The archive is a uniqe inventory of the demographic transformations occuring on the socio-cultural map of Istanbul after the declaration of the Republic and the historical period it witnessed; it is also chronological record of a female Istanbulite studio photographer´s professional career.

Publication in Maryam Şahinyan`s Memory

Tayfun Serttaş, Foto Galatasaray - Studio Practice by Maryam Şahinyan, Turkish-English, translation: Merve Ünsal, Aras Publishing, İstanbul, 2011.

Further Reading


Quoted Sources:
Source for Visual Images


The Women's Museum Istanbul is grateful to Tayfun Serttaş for his support in producing the Maryam Şahinyan introductory page.

T Translation into English: Neşe Loise Natasha Davidon, London, England
©2012 Meral Akkent
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