Guillaume Berggren (born Pehr Vilhelm Berggren) was a Swedish photographer that revolutionised reportage photography in the late 1800s. But photography was far from his destined call. He was brought up in a poor family of 13 siblings and spent his late teens mastering the art of carpenting. It wasn’t until his twenties that Berggren first stumbled upon photography, after meeting a photographer in Berlin during a carpenting apprentice journey through Europe. His travels came to an end in 1866 during a layover in Constantinople (today Istanbul), where he would end up staying for his entire life.
The Ottoman capital charmed Berggren with its grandiose architecture and vibrant street life, and when an opportunity arose to open his own photo studio on the busy main street Grand Rue de Pera (today İstiklal Avenue), he saw no reason to leave. At first, he strictly photographed portraits at the city’s embassies since the Islamic aniconism laws prohibited any depictions. By the early 1870s however, the city had become more liberal and the adventurous Berggren hit the streets to photograph the city and its people.
Berggren was especially drawn to the wide array of craftsmen and artisans in the city. He was a pioneer in depicting the working class in their natural habitat and sold the photographs as postcards in his studio. Until his death in 1920, Berggren had travelled all over the Ottoman empire to photograph people, landscapes, and architecture.