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Abdullah Mirza Qajar album of Iran, between 1883 and 1896

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Qajar (Abdullah Mizra) album of Iran

Biographical / Historical

Abdullah Mirza Qajar (1850-1909), the son of Jahangir Mirza Qajar and the grandson of Fath'ali Shāh Qajar, was member of the royal family of Iran. After attending Dār ul-Funun polytechnic school, Iran's first institution of higher learning, Qajar was sent to Paris around 1878 by the school's director who was also the Iranian minister of Science, Commerce, and the Arts, to complete his training in photography. He followed his year-and-a-half in Paris with studies in Vienna and then spent three years at Salzburg's Kaiserliche-Königliche Staastgewerbescule. Qajar studied chemistry and typographic and photographic techniques such as zincography, phototypy, photolithography, and galvanoplasty as well as practical skills such as photo retouching.

After his return to Tehran, Qajar printed maps of Iranian towns, but the meager success he experienced as a printer caused him to turn to photography. By 1883, he was a photographer in the Qajar court of Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh with the title of Royal Private Photographer. He also taught photography at Dār ul-Funun. Over the years Qajar was sent on assignment to photograph both new and ancient buildings in places such as Khurāsān, Ray, Qum, Tabrīz, Kirmānshāh, Masshad, and Kāshān. He photographed urban development in towns throughout Iran and documented archeological and historical sites including Astarabad, the birthplace of the Qajar dynasty. In short, Abdullah Mirza Qajar had moved from one type of visual mapping to another, recording the territories of Persia, and especially areas of geopolitical importance to the dynasty, with his camera.

After the assassination of Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh in 1896, whose funeral Qajar photographed, Qajar's commissions decreased. Aside from trips to Europe in 1900 and 1903 accompanying Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh's successor, Muẓaffar al-Dīn Shāh, as special photographer, Qajar seems to have received few new royal commissions. He spent the remainder of his career as head of the Royal Printing Office.

Sources Consulted:

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Finding aid for the Nafisi Family Photograph Albums of Qajar Iran, FSA.A2010.05.*%3A*&i=0

Pinguet, Catherine. "Le photographe Abdullah Mirza Qajar (1850-1909) et les funérailles de Nassered Din-Shah (1896)." In: Adnan Sezer and Bruno Tartarin, Perse.

Stepanian, Arman. "A Study of Aesthetics in the Works of Photographers during Qajar Reign," Aks (Picture: Scientific, Cultural & Artistic Monthly), vol. 12, no. 140 (Oct. 23-Nov. 21, 1998).

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