This vintage photograph, taken in 1904, captures a moment in the lives of Armenian students at Anatolia College, a significant institution among the Armenian community. The young man holding the palette is Sumpad Dildilian, who graduated from the college in 1905. Following his graduation, Sumpad played a pivotal role in the expansion of his family’s business, the Dildilian Brothers Art Photographers, by managing a new branch in Samsun, a city on the Black Sea coast.
The poised stance of the students and their engagement with art and photography speak volumes about the cultural and educational advancements of Western Armenians at the turn of the 20th century. It’s suggested that their educational and cultural development not only surpassed that of Eastern Armenians but also rivaled that of many Western European populations at the time. This reflects a period of flourishing Armenian culture, characterized by a commitment to education and the arts, which played a fundamental role in the community’s identity.
Tragically, the historical context casts a shadow on this scene of youthful ambition and talent. Sumpad Dildilian and his family were victims of the 1915 atrocities, a grim reminder of the profound losses endured by the Armenians during that era.
The image serves as a poignant testimony to the rich educational and cultural heritage that Western Armenians fostered, a legacy that continues to be celebrated and remembered despite the adversities faced by the community.
Image source: Tigran Avakian