People of Istanbul
I thought I’d post a collection of photos I took of people while in Istanbul in August. They don’t intentionally tell a story, except for each one having their own.
First is Wai, a New Yorker I met at the hotel, fellow photographer and we hung out for a bit, taking photos, having dinner, sharing the city’s life and vibrancy. Thanks for a great first day Wai, helped me a lot to get oriented:
Ahmet… So, Wai and I are looking for dinner along the Galata Bridge (its quite late by this time) and the view is spectacular. There are restaurants everywhere, and the hassling for you to sit is extraordinary, annoying, unrelenting. We decided we’d go the one where they didn’t hassle us! So, we’d look at the menu, etc, and when we lasted more than a few seconds of hassle free browsing at Ahmet’s we figured “this was it”. He was a nice fellow, helpful, and out to make a buck just like the rest, but at least he’s polite and made us feel at home. Food was great, we had a nice dinner.
The next four are from the night market that arises around sunset and goes until close to midnight at the city end of the Galata Bridge. It throngs with people, with vendors hawking their wares, smoke filling the alleyways between the makeshift stalls.
As I was walking around the Galata bridge, taking in the atmosphere and the soft dawn light, taking photos of the fishing (not so much of the people), this friendly chap gestured to me, “take my photo!”. How can I resist?
This fellow at his stand caught my eye. The lighting was just right, and he has a handsome, confident bearing. I stopped, and struck up a brief conversation with his friend, who spoke a little English, and then gestured if I might take his photo. “Sure” with a shrug. Seems to me Hollywood or Milan should catch this guy don’t you think?
I took a ferry tour up the Bosphorus, and got off at the top on the Asian side. You have a couple of hours here, and above the village is an old castle that used to guard the entrance. In the close distance from this vantage point you can see the Black Sea. Most of the site is closed off as there are a group of Archeologists studying the site. They were sitting under a tree, and I gestured if I could take their photo. This fellow came over, was friendly, and asked if I’d like to wander around the castle; he interpreted my gesture as a desire to take photos of the castle grounds itself. Sure! and off I go, collecting photos of this impressive site. Here, you can see Istanbul in the far distance behind him (looking South). Thanks for the invitation, it was very kind of you.
It is a hot hard climb up to the castle from the village. I noticed this girl, with her two sisters, sitting by the side of the road with their esky and iced water. Now, that’s a smart move. On the way back down, now I’m hot, and water it is. 1 lire?, no 2 (she is quite firm!). ok, then I take your photo too… ok, and I have about 10 seconds to get this before that’s as much time as she’s giving me, and she’s looking away to make sure she’s not missing another customer. I’m glad I stopped.
Back on the ferry, heading back to Istanbul, I sat next to this lovely woman from Japan, unfortunately, I’ve forgotten her name. We chatted a little bit, her English was minimal (and my Japanese non-existent), but mostly sat in silence, enjoying the view together. I think we enjoyed each other’s company for the hour or so of the trip; travelling can be lonely sometimes, and its nice to share the wonder of a new place with someone, even a stranger you will never see again.
The Sufis are a sect of Islam noted for their passion and mystical views. They are often seen (and persecuted) as heretics by the fundamentalists. Rumi, Attar are both poets from this tradition, which has inspired many mystical writings, intoxicated with the sublime, including Gibran’s “The Prophet”. The Whirling Dervishes are another part, or expression, of this sect, expressing their spirituality through dance. The dance itself is completely based on a symbolic language, a philosophy expressed in movement. In the 20th Century, Gurdjieff’s dance troupe was to take this to the West. Here, this is a short dance, mainly to introduce the style and the ritual to tourists. Its worth seeing I think.
Fishing on the Bosphorus. This one first caught my eye, 5 fish from one cast (you can see the cast in action in the following photo). Here, the cat is ever attentive and as his friend comes over to help take the fish off the hook, the cat makes his play for a fish (damn! I wish I had that shot). It was a funny moment, and you have to admire the pluckiness of the cat, unsuccessful as he was.
As the sun sets on another day, these two mates are wandering around Taksim Sq, at the top of the Istiklal Cadessi (a pedestrian shopping mall that stretches for a couple of kilometres). The square is large and open and at this time of day full of people going home, going out, having fun or getting ready to.
Half way down, I’ve meandered, paused, and its now dark but the mall is still absolutely packed with people. The crowds here are amazing. I’ve stopped to just see what happens by; it seems to me the Levi poster in the background offers the potential for an interesting contrast, as there are many women with scarves covering their hair, and a few with burkas and even niqab. I don’t really want to be a gratuitous social voyeur (ha! that’s a bit of a wild assertion isn’t it), but I think this captures something of the contrast present in Istanbul society.
As does this! Just a few metres away, a Japanese fellow is playing digerido in Istanbul, the conquered city of the Byzantines, capital of the Ottoman empire, now largest city in the Republic of Turkey. He plays very well, and of course, being Australian, I have an innate ability to make this judgement. There were a couple of Aussies who came by while I was there, introducing themselves, with the requisite “mate”. Embarrassing! I put on my broadest Californian accent.
Hello Sailor. These kids (and the next 2 photos after this) are taken in the shadow of the Theodosian Walls. I’d walked by earlier in the afternoon, and the kids were there, and had wanted their photo taken (which I did), and then on my way back, capturing the evening light, came across the pair again. “Photo, photo” arises the cry! How can I resist. These kids will adorn many a computer I imagine as the days go by, as it seems like a favourite pastime.
I have a friend in Aus, who is an avid collector of old Mercedes. Not quite as old and derelict as this, but the passion for these cars is felt across the world. Hmm.. actually, I think there might have been a couple that were pretty close to this condition, now that I think about it. These fellows (from Klasik Oto) are both keen and enthusiastic about their business, and were very pleased to have some photos taken.
Meandering still with the Wall to my right, as I compose the photo of the wall I want, this fellow walking by is quite happy, gesturing for me to take his photo as well. So, I do, and as he walks by I nod thanks, and he smiles.
Seeing me taking that photo, this woman beckons me to take a photo of her. None of her friends wanted to be in it (they were quite adamant in a jolly way), so I’ve cropped them out. Well, she was nice, smiled, then I’m on my way again, taking in the evening light with the laughter of women warming the night.
At the foot of the Galata Tower is a small area abutting the side of the hill. With steps, trees, it has become an area for people to gather and wile away the evening hours. It bought to mind the Spanish Steps in Rome (though on a much smaller scale), but a similar, festive atmosphere. In this, a fellow plays the baglama (an instrument from the Lute family of Ancient Greece) to the rapt attention of at least one fan. I stood for a while and took the music in.
Back to the night market again at the Galata bridge, and a stall set up by the busy road. The subtle light of the lamps, the smoke of the portable grills (often over-powering) creates an unique atmosphere, ideally suited as if a partner, a necessary complement, to the warm night. In some way it does seem to complete it, and to my left the waters of the Golden Horn lap along the sides of walkway to complete the scene.
Istanbul is full of tourists, myself included of course, with our cameras ever at the ready. Here, we are in the great Cistern of Constantinople, built by Justinian in the 6th Century, consequently to be abandoned by the Muslims due to a prohibition expressed in the Koran about still waters. When used, the cisterns were completely full of water, brought via aqueducts from a forest 30+ kms away, and used for centuries as the main water storage facility of this great city.
In the Grand Bazaar, a place still of wonder, particularly to contemplate how truly remarkable and diverse a place this must have been over the course of centuries. Istanbul lays at the western end of the silk road, so not only would goods pass through here going East, but of course goods would pass though (and many stay) from the Far East. Here, the fellow on the left is very friendly as I take a nice coffee. Its his first day on the job.
Last night in Istanbul and back to the Genovese Steps (I think I’ll give them that name as a homage to the Spanish steps in Rome, and to mark the area which was primarily settled by the Genovese both during the time of the Byzantines and of the Ottomans). The steps again, are alive, and I think this is a fitting image to finish on, may her sentiments find their universal expression.