- Sparks of Happenstance: Photographs, Public Celebrations, and the Ottoman Military Band of Jerusalem
- Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 2018
- pp. 33-66
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- Additional Information
This article explores the depiction of public celebration in the late Hamidian period in Ottoman Jerusalem through the relationship between textual and photographic sources and between state performers and the viewing public. The joy of public celebrations on the sultan's birthday and accession day conveyed in the Ottoman Turkish and Hebrew press was at odds with formal, flat photographs of the occasion, but in fact shared that aesthetic through its formulaic tropes and language. A key part of the narratives of these occasions in Jerusalem was the performance of music by the military band of the garrison. Through a close reading of these and other images, the uniform images and narratives of these public events of the state can be penetrated, and snapshots of discord, emotion, and reaction emerge that show performances to be perhaps cacophonous affairs, and the attending crowds a part of the scenery rather than active participants. As such, this article considers the role of these photographs in reconstructing both the experiential and political atmospheres of these formal state occasions. In particular, a stereographic image of a concert of the Jerusalem band in 1903 permits an alternative reading of these occasions. Using the chance details captured in these shots, the value of close readings of photographs as microhistories can be found in exposing narratives beyond those peddled by the state, and the flaws and tensions of the relationship between ruler and ruled thus become more readily apparent.