The Eye of Istanbul

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“The actual taking of the photograph is very important and rather difficult.  It is determining a piece of reality and fixing it for eternity. One has to learn to see.  Most look, but never see.”

   -Ara Güler

To me, any form of visual arts or media are probably the most intimate medium of illustrating one’s emotions and thoughts about a subject matter. But there is something quite powerful and reflective about looking through a viewfinder and the ability to choose and compose the view infront of you in order to capture, as the quote above beautifully expressed, “a piece of reality and fixing it for eternity”
It is this notion of photography that got me into the medium and now I’ve becoming less and less hesitant to include  Amateur Photographer to the catalogue of nouns that describes me. (she said ever so humbly…)

So coming on this trip, I was very eager to see the city (whether it was through the viewfinder or not) and capturing it on film (or in this case onto a compact flash card.) But despite Istanbul being, quite possibly, the most photogenic city I’ve ever been to, I still find myself wrestling with the artistic conundrum of how best to identify and photograph the essence of the city and doing it beautifully.

And then I was introduced to the work of Ara Güler.

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Nicknamed “The Eye of Istanbul” Ara Güler’s beautiful photographs of his native city elevated his status to an internationally famous Turkish photographer.  Calling himself a visual historian, Ara Güler’s photographs showcase the city’s breathtaking historical urban landscape and architectural components, while at the same time tells a story and provoke emotions and curiosity through capturing what is essentially the most fundamental factor that makes the city what it is: human presence.  His series of candid photographs focuses on the human element that is Istanbul, because to him, only the presence of human can reflects reality and is the true perception of life.  Looking through these photographs it is easy to see that they becomes a memory of a place and of the people that is deeply rooted within and intimately connected to Güler.
From his photographs, I’ve learnt that the essence of the city of Istanbul (or any city, for that matter) may not be so much about the monuments and the icons but the people that exist within the fabric. And with that, I’ve made a note to myself to switch up my 10-20mm wide angle lens for my 50mm fixed lens more often…to stop looking at monuments and start seeing the people.

To end on a less reflective note, Ara Güler, now in his 80s, owns (I believe…) a cafe in the Beyoğlu district that goes by the name of Ara Kafe.  Just off of Istiklal Caddesi, Ara Kafe showcase his beautiful photographs while serving a variety of rather pricy beverages and cuisines. And since his studio is situated right above the cafe itself, he is sometime seen hanging out in the cafe.  Needless to say.. I will probably make several trips to the cafe in the hopes of catching a glimpse of my new photography idol.

To see more of Ara Güler’s work, I strongly encourage a visit to the Ara Güler | Offical Web Site

5 comments

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