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Leonore Kosswig

  • Given name:
    Leonore
  • Last name:
    Kosswig
  • Date of Birth:
    06-06-1904
  • Place of Birth:
    Dresden (DE)
  • Date of Death:
    23-07-1973
  • Place of Death:
    Hamburg (DE)
  • Profession:
    BiologistEthnographerPhotographer
  • Introduction:

    The exiled biologist and photographer Leonore Kosswig was one of the pioneering women researchers travelling alone in the 1950s and exploring customs and ways of life in Turkey and Iraq.

    Word Count: 30

  • Signature Image:
    Cafer Türkmen, Leonore and Curt Kosswig in Birecik, 1954, photography, detail (Private Archive).
  • Content:

    Leonore Kosswig was one of the pioneering women researchers travelling alone in the 1950s and exploring customs and ways of life in rural Turkey and Iraq with her camera. She studied biology and was self-taught in photography. Together with her husband, the zoologist Curt Kosswig, she lived in exile in Istanbul from 1937.
    The zoologist Curt Kosswig, a professor at the TH Braunschweig, though not a member of  a racially or politically persecuted group, increasingly came into conflict with Nazi authorities. Through the mediation of botanist Alfred Heilbronn, founder of the Botanical Garden in Istanbul, he was offered the chair of zoology at the University of Istanbul in 1937. His biologist wife Leonore and their three sons followed him to the city on the Bosporus four months later. Leonore Kosswig accompanied her husband in his many academic activities and on his scientific research trips through Turkey, without initially pursuing her own professional path. Like many emigrant wives in Turkey, her role was more focused on the household and family.

    The Kosswig family’s life was centred around their home, a historic wooden villa in the Bebek district, on the European side of Istanbul. Bebek was a former fishing village, just a few kilometres from the historic centre of Istanbul. The “Haus am Berg” [House on the Hillside], as the Kosswigs called it, was a meeting place for emigrants where plays and music were performed. The Kosswigs were part of a group of scientists – a kind of “private academy” – headed by the economist Alexander Rüstow and the lawyer Andreas Schwarz. Its members, among whom was financial economist Fritz Neumark, represented various different disciplines and gave lectures on their respective fields of expertise (Widmann 1973, 180; Neumark 1980, 190). The Kosswigs' residence in Bebek therefore played an important social function in networking and community building within the German-speaking émigré community. The House on the Hillside formed its own island in exile and was thus an expression for strategies of community building. A peripheral neighbourhood like Bebek, at a distance from the sites where history, culture and migration agglomerated, offered the opportunity to build a social place where life could unfold at its own rhythm and pace, while at the same time providing an opportunity for emigrants' cultural and political self-organisation (Hirsch 2008, 47). The socialising that took place in the German-speaking emigrant community was facilitated by the fact that several professors and their families lived close to one another.

    Photographs of the exterior and interior of the Haus am Berg, taken by the Kosswigs, give an impression of how the family appropriated their immediate environment. Here one finds the practice of photographing empty rooms, making the furniture and the placement of things one’s own and, like in a memory bank, conserving it all, as though what was not photographically captured might soon be forgotten. Due to the way the photographs were stored, organised and collected—in albums, for example— series of events are condensed and narratives abbreviated within a picture.

    It was only in 1955, when Leonore Kosswig received a Leica M3 as a gift from her husband, that she took up photography. In the following years, she went on regular photographic walks through the city of Istanbul, which led her to the historic city wall and the Grand Bazaar. She aimed her camera at buildings and streets, photographed shops and historical buildings, crowded markets and rundown buildings. She had a particular feel for everyday situations: in her photographs, she captured groups of people, conversations and sales negotiations. Though she roamed the neighbourhoods as a German immigrant, she was often able to act as an unobserved flaneur. Kosswig’s photographic expeditions in Istanbul took her beyond the tourist areas recommended by guidebooks since the turn of the century. In this, her interest coincided with that of other Istanbul photographers of the 1950s, such as Ara Güler or Selahattin Giz, who, as flaneuring and observing photographers, captured the city on the Bosporus from within and, in doing so, rendered the insignificant and unspectacular visible.

    At the time when Leonore Kosswig took up photography, her husband had been offered, and had accepted, a position at the University of Hamburg, but both continued to feel an attachment to Turkey. Leonore Kosswig stayed for longer periods in Istanbul; the surviving photographs of Leonore Kosswig were predominantly taken in Turkey and Iraq. This was partly made possible by the fact that, having lived in the country for 20 years, she knew some areas of the city well, spoke fluent Turkish and often dressed in a traditional şalvar and loose blouse.
    She was one of the few women of her day to visit rural and desert regions by herself and study people, traditions and artisanal techniques. Along with a few black and white photographs, the majority of the pictures have survived in the form of small-format slides (Dogramaci 2013, 153–167). On her travels to Konya, Çardak, Malatya and Mosul in Iraq, Leonore Kosswig researched Anatolian wedding customs (Kosswig 1961), Circassian property signs (Kosswig 1974) and above all the board weaving performed by nomadic tribes in eastern Turkey (Kosswig 1967). Leonore Kosswig illustrated her essays with her own photographs.

    She had a special interest in board weaving, having collected board weavings at markets in Anatolia since the late 1930s, and, perceiving it to be a dying craft, saw her research as an important contribution to its documentation and preservation. Her photographs show the production and uses of the woven ribbons that were produced and these; in addition, Kosswig had already acquired board weavings at markets in Anatolia since the late 1930s. Object photographs were integrated into her essays. A large bundle of ribbons from her collection was donated to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg after her death in 1973.
    Leonore and Curt Kosswig’s attachment to Istanbul and its history is reflected in the fact that, after their death, both were buried in the Istanbul graveyard of Rumeli Hısarı (where Cem Mehmet Cemil’s grave is located) – even though Curt Kosswig had been teaching at Hamburg University since 1955.

    Word Count: 1001

  • Media:
    Cafer Türkmen, Leonore and Curt Kosswig in Birecik, 1954, photography (Private Archive).
    Curt and/or Leonore Kosswig, House of Family Kosswig in Bebek, Istanbul, 1940s (Private Archive). The Kosswig house is pictured at the back, left of centre.
    Leonore Kosswig, House of Family Kosswig in Bebek (Haus am Berg), Istanbul, Spring 1957 (Private Archive).
    Curt and/or Leonore Kosswig, House of Family Kosswig in Bebek, Istanbul, interior, 1940 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig, Sütçü Ibrahim [Milkman Ibrahim], Bebek, Istanbul, 1956 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig, Way to Balık Pazar [Fish Market], Istanbul, March 1957 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig, Behind Mısır Çarşı [Egypt Market], Istanbul, March 1957 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig, At the old bridge near Eminönü, Istanbul, March 1957 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig, Çeşme [Fountain], Istanbul, 1957 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig, Gemiç, 1957, colour slide (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig, Near Faluja, Irak, 1958, colour slide (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig, In the Tent, after 1955, colour slide (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig. “Hochzeitsgebräuche in Anatolien.” [Wedding customs in Anatolia]. Oriens, vol. 13–14, 1961, pp. 248–249 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig. “Über Brettchenweberei insbesondere in Anatolien.“ [About board weaving especially in Anatolia]. Baessler-Archiv, vol. 15, 1967, pp. 98–99 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig. “Über Brettchenweberei insbesondere in Anatolien.” [About board weaving especially in Anatolia]. Baessler-Archiv, vol. 15, 1967, pp. 100–101 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig. “Über Brettchenweberei insbesondere in Anatolien.” [About board weaving especially in Anatolia]. Baessler-Archiv, vol. 15, 1967, pp. 104–105 (Private Archive).
    Leonore Kosswig, Couple in Üçpınar, Kayseri, c. 1967, colour slide (Private Archive). From a series of photographs for the Leonore Kosswig’s essay “Über Brettchenweberei insbesondere in Anatolien” Baessler-Archiv, vol. 15, 1967.
    Board weaving with Kıvrım pattern, 1961 purchased by Leonore Kosswig in Çığdık next to Adana (Private Archive, Photo: Jana Weber).
    Curt Kosswig. In memoriam Leonore Kosswig. Leonore Kosswig’i anarken. Baha Matbaası, 1974 (Private Archive). Published, along with her travelogues, after Leonore Kosswig's death.
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Dogramaci, Burcu. Fotografieren und Forschen. Wissenschaftliche Expeditionen mit der Kamera im türkischen Exil nach 1933. Jonas, 2013.

    Dogramaci, Burcu. “Arrival City Istanbul: Flight, Modernity and Metropolis at the Bosporus. With an Excursus on the Island Exile of Leon Trotsky.” Arrival Cities. Migrating Artists and New Metropolitan Topographies in the 20th Century, edited by Burcu Dogramaci et al., Leuven University Press, 2020, pp. 205–225. Open Access, https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/41641. Accessed 23 March 2021.

    Dogramaci, Burcu, and Rachel Lee. “Refugee Artists, Architects and Intellectuals Beyond Europe in the 1930s and 1940s: Experiences of Exile in Istanbul and Bombay.” ABE Journal, no. 14–15, 2019, n.p. Open Edition Journals, [url]http://journals.openedition.org/abe/5949; doi: 10.4000/abe.5949[/url]. Accessed 23 March 2021.

    Kosswig, Leonore. “Hochzeitsgebräuche in Anatolien.” Oriens, vol. 13–14, 1961, pp. 240–250.

    Kosswig, Leonore. “Geschichte und Ornamentik einer antiken, in Anatolien noch geübten Bandweberei mit Brettchen.” Mitteilungen, edited by Deutsch-Türkische Gesellschaft e.V. Bonn, no. 53, 1963, pp. 3–7.

    Kosswig, Leonore. Bei den Bergnomaden auf den Murat-Bergen in Westanatolien. Private print, 1965.

    Kosswig, Leonore. “Über Brettchenweberei insbesondere in Anatolien.” Baessler-Archiv, vol. 15, 1967, pp. 71–133.

    Kosswig, Leonore. “Zum botanischen Vorbild der Säulen vom Theodosiusbogen in Istanbul.” Istanbuler Mitteilungen, vol. 18, 1968, pp. 259–263.

    Kosswig, Leonore. “Anadolu Dokuma yaygılar.” Türkiyemiz, vol. 2, no. 5, 1971, pp. 27–33.

    Kosswig, Leonore. “Ergebnisse von Beringungen im Vogelparadies am Manyassee (Türkei). Manyas gölünde yapilan halkalandirmalar hakkinda.” Bonner Zoologische Beiträge, vol. 24, no. 3, 1973, pp. 178–182.

    Kosswig, Leonore. “Eigentumszeichen (Damga) in Anatolien.” Oriens, vol. 23–24, 1974, pp. 333–405.

    Kosswig, Curt. In memoriam Leonore Kosswig. Leonore Kosswig’i anarken. Baha Matbaası, 1974.

    Kosswig, Leonore and Curt Kosswig. “Die Variabilität bei Asellus aquaticus, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Variabilität in isolierten unter- und oberirdischen Populationen.” Istanbul Üniv. Fen Fakültesi mecmuası, no. 5, 1940, pp. 1–56.

    Neumark, Fritz. Zuflucht am Bosporus. Deutsche Gelehrte, Politiker und Künstler in der Emigration 1933–1953. Knecht, 1980.

    Widmann, Horst. Exil und Bildungshilfe. Die deutschsprachige akademische Emigration in die Türkei nach 1933. Mit einer Bio-Bibliographie der emigrierten Hochschullehrer im Anhang. Lang, 1973.

    Word Count: 312

  • Archives and Sources:

    Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Leonore Kosswig, collection of ribbons.

    Word Count: 12

  • Acknowledgements:

    My deepest thanks go to Erika Kosswig, who supported my research on the Istanbul photographs of her mother-in-law, Leonore Kosswig, with great generosity.

    Word Count: 23

  • Author:
    Burcu Dogramaci
  • Exile:

    Istanbul, Turkey (1937–1973).

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Inşirah Sokak No. 32, Bebek, Istanbul (residence).

  • Metropolis:
    Istanbul
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Leonore Kosswig." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2949/object/5138-10786059, last modified: 20-06-2021.
  • Mehmet Cemil Cem
    DiplomatCaricaturist

    Cemil Cem is remembered as a cartoonist, although he also managed the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul for four years. While director of the academy, he supported Russian-speaking artists.

    Word Count: 30

    Cemil Cem (Turgut Çeviker Archive, Turkey).
    Cemil Cem (Turgut Çeviker Archive, Turkey).Mehmet Cemil Cem (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2021).Caricature by Cemil Cem from Cem, 18 November 1910 (Turgut Çeviker Archive, Turkey).Cem Street, Istanbul (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2021).One of the caricatures by Mehmet Cemil Cem (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2021).
    Istanbul
    Traugott Fuchs
    PhilologistRomanistPoetPainter

    Traugott Fuchs was a multi-talented philologist, painter and poet who lived in Istanbul from 1934 until the end of his life in 1997.

    Word Count: 21

    Traugott Fuchs with his cat Traugotta at Robert College, photographer unknown, December 1960 (Traugott-Fuchs-Archiv Istanbul).
    Traugott Fuchs, Self-portrait, c. 1940 (Traugott-Fuchs-Archiv Istanbul).Traugott Fuchs, Hekimbaşı Salih Efendi Yalısı, Anadolu Hisarı, c. 1984 (Traugott-Fuchs-Archiv Istanbul). Fuchs draw the villa on the shores of the Bosporus many years after he lived there in 1938.Traugott Fuchs, Harvest I, Çorum, 1945 (Traugott-Fuchs-Archiv Istanbul). This rural scene was drawn during internment.Traugott Fuchs, Lonely tomb at naked mountain, Çorum, 1945 (Traugott-Fuchs-Archiv Istanbul). The artist painted this picture during internment.Traugott Fuchs, Sailing ship close to Istanbul, c. 1950s (Traugott-Fuchs-Archiv Istanbul).Traugott Fuchs, City silhouette with load carrier, n.d. (Traugott-Fuchs-Archiv Istanbul).Sébah & Joaillier, Robert Collège, Rumeli Hissar, 1904, photograph, postcard (https://www.flickr.com/photos/saltonline/14243596745/, SALT Araştırma, Fotoğraf Arşivi). Main building and campus of Robert College on the European side of Istanbul, where Traugott Fuchs taught and lived from 1952.Traugott Fuchs, Young man bathing in blue water, n.d., coloured pencil on paper (Traugott-Fuchs-Archiv Istanbul). This drawing refers to a poem by the Orientalist Hellmut Ritter, with whom Traugott Fuchs had a close friendship. Ritter gave Fuchs refuge in his house in Bebek when he returned from internment in Çorum.Hellmut Ritter. “Das Bad im Mittelmeer.” Castrum Peregrini, vol. LXXXIX, Amsterdam, 1969, 94f. (Photo: Gregor Langfeld). Ritter’s poem can be read as a dialogue with the Young man bathing in blue water by Traugott Fuchs.Traugott Fuchs, Kleine Käsflattermalve, n.d. (Traugott-Fuchs-Archiv Istanbul).Traugott Fuchs’s headstone, Feriköy cemetery, Istanbul (Photo: Richard Wittmann, 2019).
    Istanbul
    Ragıp Devres Villa
    BuildingResidence

    The house designed by the Swiss-Austrian architect Ernst Egli for the engineer Ragip Devres in Istanbul Bebek left its mark on the Turkish villa landscape.

    Word Count: 25

    Ernst Egli, Ragıp Devres House, Istanbul Bebek, Cevdet Paşa Caddesi No. 101, 1932/33, view from the street (Werk, no. 25, 1938).
    Ernst Egli, Ragıp Devres House, Istanbul Bebek, Cevdet Paşa Caddesi No. 101, 1932/33, interior (Werk, no. 25, 1938).
    Istanbul
    Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden
    Garden

    The botanical garden in Fatih was established above the Galata Bridge in historic Stambul in the 1930s. This was carried out at the suggestion of the exiled botanist Alfred Heilbronn.

    Word Count: 30

    Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden, Istanbul Fatih, 1935/1937, entrance (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).
    Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden, Istanbul Fatih, 1935/1937 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden, Istanbul Fatih, 1935/1937 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden, Historical Plant Sign, 1935/1937 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden, Historical Plant Sign, Istanbul Fatih, 1935/1937 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Ernst Egli, Botanical Institute, 1935/1936 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Ernst Egli, Botanical Institute, 1935/1936 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Ernst Egli, Botanical Institute, 1935/1936 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Ernst Egli, Botanical Institute, 1935/1936 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Ernst Egli, Botanical Institute, 1935/1936 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Ernst Egli, Botanical Institute, 1935/1936 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden, 1935/1937, view at the Bosporus (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).
    Istanbul