Interesting Facts About Zangaki Brothers: Egypt’s First Commercial Photographers

Adelphoi Zangaki (Zangaki Brothers) were two brothers of Greek origin, who were active as photographers in Egypt and Algeria, from the 1860s through to the 1890s and who specialized in photographing ancient monuments and scenes of everyday life, producing prints for the tourist trade.
They occasionally worked with the Port Said photographer, Hippolyte Arnoux on the project document works on the Suez Canal. They were amongst the first commercial photographers to produce large scale images of Egypt.
Little is known about the Zangaki brothers, except their initials, C. and G., and that they worked out of Port Said and Cairo from around the 1860s through to at least the 1890s. Many of the Zangaki photographs are signed with a brother’s initial and/or a place of business, e.g., “C. Zangaki” or “Zangaki, Cairo” or occasionally “A.Zangaki”.
Until relatively recently it was believed that “A.Zangaki” was a single photographer. However, with the discovery of a signboard with the name “Adelphoi Zangaki”, it was recognized that these were brothers.
Many scholars also believe that their names were George and Constantinos (or Costas). Some scholars believe that they were born on the island of Milos, while others have suggested that they were Cypriot.
However, no definitive evidence pertaining to their place and date of birth is extant. How they came to learn photography is also unclear. However, shortly after their arrival in Egypt they had become established photographers with a studios in Cairo and Port Said.
Here are more interesting facts about Zangaki brothers you probably didn’t know:
1. It is acknowledged that the Zangaki brothers “produced some of the finest images of late Victorian Egypt.” Their photographs of late 19th century Egypt, though produced for sale to the flourishing European tourist trade to Egypt, are highly prized by historians and collectors for their insights into life at the time.
2. They may have worked with a French photographer, Hippolyte Arnoux, in the project to document works on the construction of the Suez Canal. Most scholars believe that Arnoux was the official Suez photographer and that the Zangaki Bros may have assisted him, however, the precise nature of their relationship is unclear since Arnoux’s biography is just as enigmatic as the Zangaki brothers.
However, this relationship soured when in 1874, Arnoux instigated litigation against the Zangaki Brothers and one Spiridion Antippa accusing them of usurping his intellectual property. Arnoux was successful and on 29 June, 1876, the Court of Ismailia, recognized them as “guilty of usurpation of artistic and industrial property and unfair competition.
3. The Zangaki brothers traveled along the Nile accompanied by a horse-drawn darkroom wagon to document the Egyptian scenery, architecture and events. Images included views of the pyramids, e.g., Cheops or the Sphinx and the cities, e.g., Suez or Alexandria, as well of Egyptians going about their daily lives, e.g., a teacher and pupils, men by the Nile, or women at home.
4. Photographs taken by the Zangaki brothers are commonly found in tourists’ albums assembled in the Middle East in the second-half of the 19th-century. From their Port Said studio, they were ideally situated to sell to Europeans visiting Egypt as part of a Grand Tour.

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