‘Ara Guler’s Istanbul: 40 Years of Photographs’ with a foreword by Orhan Pamuk

Ara Güler's Istanbul book cover

By Monica Fritz

In this exquisite edition, two significant men collaborate: photographer Ara Güler and writer Orhan Pamuk. Both native to the city, and experts in their own right, through the visual and the written word, a natural union.

Istanbul seems to be disappearing before our eyes. A glimpse of its magic can still be found though, if you look for it. It can be found on a neighborhood back street of Hasköy, or on a hill of fortress Rumeli Hisarı, or in the village of Kuzguncuk. A glimpse of Güler’s Istanbul can be found in a silversmith’s workshop in a 17th century han (inn) or in a secret garden in a Fatıh neighborhood church. It can still be found in a meyhane’s drinking song or in an Üsküdar cemetery or by one of Eyüp’s ancient plane trees.

Pamuk’s ‘huzun’ is mentioned, as he did in his book ‘Istanbul: Memories and the City.’ It’s the Turkish word for a particular melancholy found in Güler’s ‘black-and-white sorrow.’ Continuing to define the word, Pamuk says it is not the ”feeling evoked by the sight of modernity sitting alongside innocence and spontaneity.”

The soft light on a mosque in Aksaray was one of my favorite images. The emptiness felt in this photograph gives it an unusual silence, now rare and sometimes only heard in early mornings. The Ottoman Imperial Mosque is now hidden by highways. The birds-eye view gives it a touch of the surreal.

In this finely-printed duotone collection of Güler’s photographs, the many layers of Istanbul’s light stuns the eye. The strength of these images are their unpretentiousness.

Now more than ever, these photos of Istanbul’s past are ever so precious.

Ara Güler's boatman

Ara Güler's boats on the Bosphorus image

Ara Güler's eskici

Ara Güler's Istiklal Caddesi in Winter

Publisher: Thames & Hudson, Ltd.

Publication Date: December 2009

184 pages, 153 photographs

ISBN: 978-0500543863

Born in 1928, Ara Güler is a Turkish photojournalist of Armenian heritage, lovingly nicknamed ‘The Eye of Istanbul’ in this documentary. He has won several awards for his work, including Turkey’s Photographer of the Century, 1999; Master of Leica, 1962; France’s Légion d’honneur; Lifetime Achievement Lucie Award, 2009; and Turkey’s Grand Prize of Culture and Arts, 2005. In 2004, he was give honorary fellowship by Istanbul’s Yıldız Technical University.

His other photographic books include, ‘Living in Turkey;’ ‘Sinan: Architect of Süleyman the Magnificent;’ ‘Ara Güler’s Creative Americans;’ ‘Ara Güler’s Movie Directors;’ and ‘Ara Güler: Photographs.’

Orhan Pamuk struggled to find the right career for himself when he was a young person. As a high school student at Istanbul’s Robert College, he wanted to become a painter. He studied architecture for three years in college. Finally, giving up both of those ideas, he majored in journalism at Istanbul Technical University but never pursued writing journalism.

At age 23, Pamuk decided to become a novelist. He has been writing for over 40 years and he has never done any other job or career other than writing. With ten novels published, he has won numerous awards, the most prestigious of which is the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006, the first Nobel prize awarded to a Turkish citizen.

Monica Fritz is a fine art photographer and traveler, living away from her native New York City more than half her life, (15 years in Italy, 1 year in Yemen and 20 years in Istanbul), Monica delights in sharing her curiosity and enthusiasm exploring light, a moment, and the subtleties of the city through her Alternative City Tours showcasing Istanbul for photographers.

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