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About the Photographer

Photograph of Nicholas Victor Artamonoff from The 1930 Record, the Robert College Yearbook.

Nicholas Victor Artamonoff was born on January 23, 1908, in Athens, Greece, the son of Victor Alekseïevitch Artamonoff, a Russian Major General. Victor Artamonoff was stationed in Athens in 1907-1909, then Belgrade, Serbia, until 1914, and finally in Russia until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The White Russian family presumably fled Russia right after the revolution, possibly moving to Belgium, where Nicholas’s brother, Michael, later settled, while Nicholas pursued his education in England. Nicholas’s school records trace his studies through schools in Kent, Newcastle, and London from 1918 to 1922

1922 marks the beginning of Artamonoff’s long-lasting connection with Turkey; at the age of fourteen, Nicholas entered Robert College (RC), an American school for boys in Istanbul. Artamonoff completed high school at RC and then entered the Engineering School, where he received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1930.

While studying at RC, Nicholas’ passion for photography first took hold. He served as the photographic editor of The 1928 Record, the RC yearbook, and his yearbook entry from The 1930 Record, his graduation year, offers insight into his photography and personality:

An ardent photographer with a complete knowledge of his subject, Artamonoff has given the College much valuable service with his camera. He specializes in writing reports and handing them in on time. (Perhaps this is due to the experience of correcting those of the Physics students.) He is quiet and refined. He is the inventor of the half-cigarette which is ideal for use between periods and just before the morning exercises.

Nicholas Artamonoff (back, far right) with other members of the faculty and staff of Robert College.

Artamonoff’s known photographic collection dates from the period when he was a member of the staff at RC. Upon his graduation in 1930, Artamonoff took an administrative position as an engineer in the Department of Buildings and Grounds for both RC and the neighboring sister school, the American College for Girls (ACG). Appointed Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds in 1938, he served in that capacity until 1947. While working at the schools, Artamonoff and his wife, Natalie Artamonoff (née Zolkoff), lived in a house on the campus of ACG in Arnavutköy on the European coast of the Bosphorus, about two and a half kilometers southwest of the RC campus.

In 1947, after 25 years at RC and in Istanbul, the Artamonoffs immigrated to the United States. They initially settled in New York City, where Artamonoff became a naturalized U.S. citizen on December 12, 1952; Natalie did as well the following year. Nicholas first started a construction company with Emmanuel Pavlo, his former classmate and head of RC’s photography club in 1929. After this business failed in 1948, Artamonoff took a job at Amalgamated Textiles Limited. In 1955, Artamonoff took a position at the U.S. Army Chemical Center in Maryland, beginning his long career in the service of the U.S. government. In 1959 Artamonoff and his wife moved to Washington, D.C., where Natalie worked as a translator at the Library of Congress and Nicholas began working as an engineer for the Public Housing Administration, later renamed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Artamonoff was employed by HUD for fourteen years before voluntarily retiring in 1973. During that time, his efforts earned him a Presidential Citation Award for superior service from President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Upon his retirement, the Artamonoff’s moved to La Jolla, California, where Nicholas passed away on October 10, 1989. But he has left behind a collection of more than 1000 photographs of Istanbul and Western Turkey. His rich collection provides a glimpse into the diverse urban environment in which he lived, and the versatile photographer he was.


Top Left: Nicholas V. Artamonoff from The 1930 Record, the Robert College yearbook from his graduation year.

Lower Left: Nicholas V. Artamonoff (back, far right) with other members of the faculty and staff of Robert College. From John Freely's A History of Robert College, 2000.