john_henry_hayesJohn Henry Haynes: A Photographer and Archaeologist  in the Ottoman Empire 1881–1900
by Robert G. Ousterhout (Istanbul: Kayık Yayıncılık; Hawick, UK: Caique Publishing Ltd., 2011). 148 pp., 107 color plates, paperback, $35.00, ISBN 978-0-9565948-1-5

Reviewed by Peter J. Cobb, Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Group in the Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World, University of Pennsylvania. He has excavated at many sites across Turkey.

John Henry Haynes considered himself an objective observer, applying the modern technology of photography to the careful scientific documentation of the archaeological record. Indeed, his late 19th century photographs of the archaeological and architectural heritage of the Ottoman Empire are a gift for those of us who study Turkey’s past. They provide us with some of the earliest glimpses of this landscape before the major changes wrought by over a century of modernization, earthquakes, and erosion. Yet, Robert Ousterhout also invites us to appreciate these images for their aesthetic value and importance in the history of the photographic arts. The photographs constitute the main subject of this book, and each picture is printed beautifully on a full page. Four short essays narrate the fascinating story of Haynes’s life while he captured these 100 images. The book concludes with a longer essay analyzing Haynes’s aesthetic talents and his place in photographic art history.

Haynes’s archaeological career began with his tutelage in the photographer’s craft under William J. Stillman as they shot the Athenian Acropolis together. Stillman’s intriguing mix of experience with landscape painting, his “aesthetic sensibilities of the picturesque as defined by Ruskin,” and his “scholarly approach to architectural form” would have a major impact on Haynes’s artistic judgment (p. 137). Haynes’s first real assignment came at Assos in 1881 with the earliest excavation of the Archaeological Institute of America, but his camera’s late arrival impelled him to spend the season learning how to dig instead. Over the next few years at Assos and Constantinople, Haynes developed his photographic style, exemplified by his dramatic landscape views of the Assos Acropolis and his carefully framed details of the ruins, often with a local posing “almost as an alternative subject” (p. 138).

In 1884, Haynes joined an epigraphical expedition on a circuit of the Anatolian plateau, photographing monuments, mosques, khans (Turkish inns), and even the mundane activities of travel such as the time-honored tradition of a visit to a Turkish barber. One senses, in particular, a fascination shared between the photographer and the author with the strange fusion of anthropogenic and natural environments in Cappadocia (east central Turkey). Haynes next served as photographer for the Wolfe Expedition to Mesopotamia, which explored possible sites for an initial American excavation in the “Holy Land.” In 1887, he returned to tour Anatolia, with the goal of publishing a profitable folio of his photographs, a work that unfortunately sold few copies after its delayed release five years later.

Ousterhout paints an often tragic picture of Haynes as a hardworking man from an unprivileged background constantly struggling for financial stability and recognition of his work. Many of the eminent—and arrogant—archaeologists of his day considered Haynes, regardless of his photographic talents, “a common, uneducated man” who lacked their advanced degrees and prestigious university appointments (p. 116). Nowhere are Haynes’s troubles more evident than in the 1890s when he was left alone at Nippur to manage the Penn Museum’s first excavation. The immense scale of the project challenged his limited excavation experience, while the controlling and unsupportive communications from his bosses back home and his own marital problems drained his energy; yet he persevered. When he finally did discover a major cache of tablets, the “archaeologists” back in Philadelphia, who had rarely visited the site, took all the credit. In the end, the strain proved too much and Haynes lived out his final decade in obscurity, suffering a mental breakdown and dying in 1910. The headline of his obituary described a man “Broken in Body and Spirit” (p. 119).

Ousterhout’s final essay is a careful study of Haynes’s artistic style, with an emphasis on how his “subjective vision and aesthetic sensibilities shine through and ultimately exalt his photographs” (p. 145). This book fills an important gap in our knowledge about the development of the archaeological discipline in the United States, and it will be of interest to those studying the history of archaeology or photography. The reader already familiar with the geography and chronology of Anatolia will benefit most, but, with its story of the
intrigues of Haynes’s life and his stunning photographs, this book will be enjoyable for a wide audience.

Editor’s Note

Featuring many photographs from the Penn Museum Archives, this book is available at the Museum Shop. Prof. Ousterhout will present a talk entitled “On the Road with John Henry Haynes: A Photographer in the Ottoman Empire 1881–1900” at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, November 6, in Rainey
Auditorium, with a book signing to follow.