Ara Guler and My Istanbul

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In a recent interview with world famous Turkish photographer Ara Guler in Today’s Zaman (Nov 14, 2014) he said,

“The Istanbul that I lived in wasn’t Istanbul. Actually, I didn’t see Istanbul either. Istanbul was already over. And Pera is over, too. When the Russian invasion happened in 1917, the White Russians came here, that Asmalı Mescit was set up, there was a Bohemian life there and everyone headed there … When I look at the area today all I see is a pastane (patisserie) called Limon. People deplete themselves over time and that’s why we see the death of Istanbul. We are walking over a dead Istanbul and that’s almost how it’s going to smell … the stench of Istanbul’s filth has started to waft its way to us.”

Like many residents of Istanbul, Ara Guler suffers from hüzün, the melancholy longing for a nostalgic past that never existed. Unlike most, he is aware of this and knows that his photographs capture an Istanbul that only exists in dreams. With the rapid rate of development underway now, the Istanbul many people love is under threat, and one day all that might be left are photographic simulations of a long lost reality.

The following photos were taken by my husband Kim Hewett. They represent some memories of my Istanbul, which even now is already different from the way it is shown here.

Read what Ara Guler has to say about Istanbul

Boats selling fish sandwiches at Eminönü in 2000. Sometimes the waves from the ferries were so strong you were in danger of falling in when you reached for your order.

Ist 01 Jan Eminonu shoeshiners

Shoe shine men in the back streets of Eminönü in 2001.

Open air markets in Beyazit Square in 2000. As well as fishing rods you could buy small antiques, bric-a-brac and secondhand clothing.

Tram passing büfe selling cigarettes, water, sweets and snacks on the way to Sultanahmet, 2001. The tram still works as does the büfe, but it has been cleaned up to attract more tourists.

Toilets in Gülhane Park, 2001. The seated men are reading newspapers while waiting for their wives. Inside the ladies toilets there was a sofa, first aid stretcher, iron and ironing board. The interior was beautifully decorated with live palms and hand made rugs.

Ist 01 Gulhane park merrygo

Children having fun on hand-cranked merry-go-round, Gülhane Park, 2001. The last time I saw one of these was in 2012. It was chained to a tree, heavily rusted and disintegrating.

Hagia Sophia captured on a sunny winter’s day in 2000. Like all these photos it was taken by my husband Kim Hewett, using a 35mm SLR analog camera. None of these pictures has been enhanced in anyway.

For more photographs of Istanbul you can’t go past a collection of works by the master himself, Ara Guler. Click on the link to buy a copy of his beautiful and evocative work

Ara Guler’s: Istanbul 40 Years of Photographs


Planning to come to Istanbul or Turkey? Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip.

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

Discover the city for yourself with Istanbul 50 Unsung Places

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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    1. Hi Serge,
      Thanks for your feedback. Ara Guler is indeed a great Turkish Armenian photographer. I love the way his pictures capture an Istanbul many people dream about, although it has changed almost completely!

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