Agha Reza Khan Eghbal-ol Saltaneh (Akasbashi)


Agha Reza Khan Eghbal-ol-Saltaneh (1222 / 1259 AH – 1263 / 1307 AH), also known as Ajoodan Mokhassas and the Court Photographer, was the first professional Iranian photographer.

His grandfather, Agha Reza Khan Eghbal-ol-Saltaneh, was a key figure in the court, serving as the chief steward and master of ceremonies for the courts of Fath-Ali Shah, Mohammad Shah, and Naser al-Din Shah. His father, Agha Ismail Jadid al-Islam, was also involved in the court as a chief steward and was the brother of Mirza Ali Naghi Khan, the royal physician. His family originally belonged to the Jewish community of Isfahan but converted to Islam during his father’s time, adopting the surname Jadid al-Islam.

He learned photography from Francis Carlhian, a Frenchman, and had a preference for portrait photography. In 1280 AH, he was appointed as the court photographer by Naser al-Din Shah. A mansion under his supervision at the Golestan Palace was dedicated to the technical and artistic aspects of photography. In 1290 AH, he received the title of “Ajoodan Mokhassas and the Keeper of the Blessed Pocket.” He briefly served in military positions and the “General Directorate of the Protected Cannons” and became the “Minister of the Armory” in 1301 AH.

In 1302 AH, he was given the title “Agha Reza Eghbal-ol-Saltaneh,” and in 1304 AH, apart from the ministry of the armory, he was also entrusted with the supervision of the son of Fath-Ali Shah, a year-and-a-half-old Crown Prince Camran Mirza, who was appointed as his deputy.

Agha Reza Khan suddenly passed away on the 10th of Jumada al-Thani in 1307 AH in his private garden in Shemiran. There are various speculations about his death, including the belief of Mohammad Ali Bamdad, the author of the book “The Biography of Iranian Figures,” who suggests that he was poisoned by order of Naser al-Din Shah with a poisonous dose of Qajar coffee.

He was the first Iranian photographer to take photographs of sacred sites, accompanying Naser al-Din Shah on his first and second trips to Europe.

In March 2011, a collection of thirty photographs by Reza Aghabala-ol-Saltaneh was exhibited at the Homa Gallery, curated by Arman Stepanyan and Hengameh Mamarri.

One of the important elements of the East is religion, represented by the clergy in Iran, and during Agha Reza Khan’s time, the name of Mullah Hadi Sabzevari was prominent as the most important Islamic scholar of his time.

His lifetime coincided with the introduction of photography to Iran and the rule of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar.

Agha Reza Khan, at the king’s command, was assigned to photograph the Iranian philosopher Hadi Sabzevari at his home in Khorasan.

Agha Reza Khan, the court photographer (Ajoodan Mokhassas of Naser al-Din Shah), took a photo of Mulla Hadi, and since Mulla Hadi had not seen photography until that time and also considered it contrary to the law and the religious decrees of the previous jurists, he believed it was impossible. Therefore, after the photography session and seeing his own image, he was very surprised and eventually confirmed the validity of this practice.

Iranian photographers have photographed most clerics in their teaching and living environments.

The images of this group can be considered as evidence of photography being approved by the religious authorities in Iran.

  • Birthday: 1843
  • Death: 1928
  • Birthplace: Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran


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