Thousands of Historical and Unseen Photos of Persia Leaked Online

On the left, a woman in traditional attire sits on a rug against a plain backdrop, looking towards the camera. On the right, an older man with a beard is buried up to his neck in sand, with only his head visible. The photo is in black and white.

An anonymous hacker has leaked thousands of photos showing what Iran was like under the Qajar dynasty in the 19th century.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports that the photographs come from the archive of Tehran’s Golestan Palace with Iranian authorities apparently unhappy about the leak.

A black and white photograph of a historic town built on the edge of a steep cliff near a river. The architecture includes a large church structure on the right, perched atop the cliff, and several buildings and a bridge in the background.

Three people are on a large, patterned rug outdoors with rocks and a barren landscape around them. Two people are sitting, and one person standing in a full dark covering. One of the seated individuals is wearing a traditional robe and head covering.

A black-and-white photo depicts a group of men in traditional attire standing in front of a brick building. The central figure, bound by chains around his waist, is flanked by two stern-looking men holding staffs. More men stand in the background, partially visible.
The captured chief of a Kurdish tribe.

A black-and-white photo of a young person sitting on a wooden chair, dressed in a long Victorian-style dress. The background displays a draped cloth, with part of a patterned rug visible under the chair. The person looks slightly to the side.

A sepia-toned historical photograph depicts a seated person dressed in traditional Indian attire, including layered jewelry and a turban. The person is seated beside a table adorned with a vase of flowers and an open book.

A Google Drive folder with the valuable archive was uploaded online allowing Iranians and global citizens a peek at what the country was like in the 19th-century when it was still widely known as Persia.

A historian tells RFE/RL that the authorities in Iran make it difficult for general members of the public to access these photos. “It’s as if they were trying to keep them as far from the public eye as possible,” Hamidreza Hossein tells the American radio station.

A black-and-white photograph shows five males seated in traditional robes. They are likely Buddhist monks. The central figure is an older man, flanked by younger boys on both sides. All are barefoot and seated against a plain backdrop, with a patterned floor mat beneath them.

A black-and-white photo of a young boy wearing traditional attire, including a long patterned coat and a black hat, standing next to a wooden chair. He is posed indoors in front of a wooden door. Handwritten text is visible at the bottom of the image.

A black-and-white image shows a group of six men playing a game of chess outdoors. They are dressed in traditional Persian attire with tall hats. The men are seated on the ground, focused on the chessboard. Tents and trees are visible in the background.
A royal stablemaster demonstrating a game of chess.

A black-and-white vintage photograph of three men in traditional attire. Two men are seated while the third stands on the left. They all wear tall hats and robes, with the seated man on the right having a long, bushy beard. A painted backdrop depicts a building.

A black and white photograph of Tbilisi, Georgia, featuring historic buildings clustered on hilly terrain on both sides of a winding river. The background shows a range of mountains, and prominent structures such as a bridge and a tower are visible.

An old, black-and-white photograph shows the head of a man, with a long beard, partially buried in sand. The surroundings suggest a sandy outdoor environment. The photograph exudes a historical or vintage atmosphere.
This image has been seen before and is wrongly descrbied as a thief being buried alive. It is more likely a therapy for aching joints.
A black-and-white photograph of a woman posed with her arms raised, holding fabric above her head. A blue smudge covers part of her chest, and an oblong paper partially obscures the lower part of the image. Background shows a patterned fabric.
The photo archive contains nude pictures but they have been censored.

An online news portal in Iran called the anonymous hacker a “scumbag” while also criticizing Golestan Palace for its lax security.

“In all countries, publishing a museum’s treasure without permission is criminal in nature,” says Hadi Mirzaeri, the director general of the museums of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage.

However, after criticism that the archive was not available to the public, RFE/RL reports that Golestan Palace management announced that it would be publishing the photographs themselves imminently.

A black-and-white aerial view of a densely built city with numerous buildings and houses packed closely together. The layout consists of narrow streets and the city stretches towards the horizon with hills in the background. The sky is hazy.

A black-and-white photograph shows two individuals, one adult and one child, seated on a mat in front of a tent with patterned fabric. The adult, wearing a dark uniform with a hat, holds the child closely. The scene is outdoors with grass in the foreground.

A historical black-and-white photo showing six children standing in a line. They are dressed in traditional Persian clothing, including long coats and tall hats. The children vary in height, with the tallest child standing in the center.
Dwarves of Naser al-Din Shah’s court.

Black and white historical photo of a formation of soldiers on horseback. The soldiers, dressed in uniform, are positioned in several rows with clear distinction. The background is barren terrain, hinting at a possible desert or plain.

A historical black-and-white photo depicts seven children standing in a row, each wearing traditional clothing, including long coats and cylindrical hats. They are posing outdoors in front of a backdrop with a fence and trees. The image has an aged appearance.

Black and white aerial view of a historic city along a waterfront, filled with numerous buildings, mosques with minarets, and many ships in the harbor. The cityscape extends to the distant hills, showcasing dense urban architecture and bustling maritime activity.

Black and white photo of the shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, Iran. The image showcases the intricate architecture of the shrine, including large domes, minarets, and arches, with a sprawling cityscape and mountains in the background.

A large group of people is seen praying together in a mosque. The worshippers are kneeling in rows, facing the same direction. The mosque's architecture includes arches and ornate details. The atmosphere is solemn and reverent, indicating a significant communal prayer event.

A black and white photo shows a person sitting in a rickshaw on a dirt road. The person is dressed in traditional clothing and has a hat. The background features a hilly landscape with sparse vegetation and some structures.

A Photography Shah

One of the Iranian Shahs, Naser al-Din, of the Qajar Dynasty was a patron of photography and many of the images in the archive feature him and were possibly shot by him as well.

Naser al-Din Shah reigned from 1848 until his assassination in 1896; a crucial period in the history of photography. He set up a photography studio and would often take the portraits of members of his court. The shah also traveled extensively — taking photographs of Tbilisi and Istanbul.

A sepia-toned portrait of a man with a thick mustache, wearing a traditional dark hat with an embroidered emblem and a uniform decorated with various medals and adornments. He has a serious expression and looks directly at the camera.
Naser al-Din Shah. Portrait taken by Nadar.
A historical black-and-white photograph depicting a man dressed in traditional Persian attire seated in a grand, ornate room. Another man, in light-colored clothing, is standing close to him, seemingly brushing or grooming his mustache. Three attendants in similar traditional attire stand nearby.
Naser al-Din Shah at a dentist appointment.
A historical photograph shows a person dressed in elaborate, traditional clothing with intricate patterns and details. The person has a serious expression and sits with one hand on their stomach. The image has a vintage, black-and-white look.
Naser al-Din’s wife Anisodoleh. The Shah is likely to have taken this photo.

A black-and-white photo shows a man in traditional attire seated in front of a backdrop featuring buildings and hills. He is surrounded by various distillation equipment, including glass flasks, a burner, and containers, suggesting he is engaged in a distillation process.

Black and white photograph of a man seated in a chair, holding a walking cane. He is wearing a long coat and a fez hat with a stern expression. The bottom of the image has text reading "M. Seid Ali" on the left and "Téhéran" on the right.

Two men in military uniforms are seated side by side on chairs. The man on the left wears a dark uniform with a traditional hat and holds a sword, while the man on the right wears a lighter uniform with medals and decorations. They are seated on a patterned rug with a plain backdrop.

Image credits: Golestan Palace via RFE/RL.