Josephine Powell (Josephine Powell)

Josephine Powell

Josephine Powell was born in New York City. Powell attended Cornell University, where she earned a BA in 1941. She also attended the New York School for Social Work at Columbia University where she received her Master’s degree in 1945. After her graduation, Powell left the United States to start working for the International Refugee and Resettlement Organization for Displaced Persons (IRRODP). First, she worked in Tanganyika, and later in Munich. After, for many years, Josephine Powell was based in Rome, during which time she starting taking amateur photographs with a camera purchased at the PX. She developed a talent for photography, and her curiosity to learn more about the interesting things she trained her lens on led to an unexpected career as an architectural photographer. architectural photographer. From 1952 to 1975, Josephine Powell travelled extensively by car, alone or accompanied her dog. In many regions, she took photographs of local monuments, of archaeology, of historical and ethnographical subjects and of museum collections. She visited and documented Afghanistan, North Africa, Greece, Kashmir, India, Iran, Italy, Nepal, East and West Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. During these travels, she also collected objects that later became part of various museum collections, such as the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her photographs would appear in more than 150 books and scientific publications. Several of her architectural photographs appear in Thames & Hudson’s landmark survey ‘Architecture of the Islamic World.’

Josephine Powell relocated to Istanbul in 1975. After getting an assignment from Thames & Hudson for a proposed book on Turkish kilims, Powell immersed herself in Anatolian kilims and the people who made them. For years, she followed semi-nomadic Anatolians in her VW Caravan, documenting their daily lives, with especial attention to their manufacture of textiles. She also documented kilims and other textiles she found in villages and village mosques. She also, with Harald Böhmer, researched and studied the natural dyes used to produce the colors in antique textiles. Together, in Turkey’s Aegean region, they set up the DOBAG Carpet Initiative of weavers, using natural dyes and traditional weaving techniques to produce new carpets, engaging a younger generation in the traditions of carpet weaving, and opening markets for their work. After her death in January 2007, much of her Turkish collection of textiles and artifacts was donated to the Vehbi Koç Foundation. Powell’s tens of thousands of photographs and associated fieldnotes were also part of her willed donation to the Koç Foundation, and now are part of Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations. Among others, longtime friend and aide Brigitte Sommer was instrumental in helping Koç University properly digitalize Powell’s collection. Powell’s artifacts and textiles are now part of the Sadberk Hanım Museum collection in Büyükdere, Istanbul. Other photographs of ethnographic interest from her travels from 1951-1975 are at Harvard University. Josephine Powell died at home in Istanbul on January 19, 2007. She was 87. She is buried in the Feriköy Protestant Cemetery in Istanbul.

More Images

  • josephineandcamel2 -


  • May, 15, 1919
  • USA
  • New York, New York


  • January, 19, 2007
  • Istanbul, Turkey


  • Feriköy Protestant Cemetery
  • Istanbul, Turkey

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