Archive for March, 2012

  • Yellow: a primary beauty.

    March 12th, 2012


    Remember long days, the warm light that bathes the world as the sun slants late and long through the streets?

    No, neither do I. That’s why even though today is Monday, and not Sunday, I’m dedicating this post to the color of the Sun, which has made only dropped the occasional flicker around here lately. It’s got me looking for sunny bursts everywhere I go, even if it’s a pale reflection off a crumpled old shoe box in some dimly lit pasaj in Osmanbey. I’m especially enjoying the primary color, yellow, these days. Even at its plainest, it’s gold.

    Summer will return … I think. Until then, I hope these will give you some warmth.





    Posted in Photography | | No Comments
  • Churches: glimpses into different times.

    March 9th, 2012


    You’ll seldom get much more than a glimpse of a church in Istanbul. Perhaps it’s the landscape we’re in. Space is definitely at a premium and many old things are not respected, let alone valued the way they once were.

    I’m not religious, but I refuse to leap aboard the anti-religion bandwagon. Religion has played such an inextricable role in the thought and development of just about every culture you can name that to try and excise it completely, or refuse to look at its place in our social development seems to me a little strange, perhaps even unwise.


    This doesn’t mean we should discount or ignore the bloody atrocities that religious institutions and their “faithful” flocks have committed throughout history, it just seems to me that as in all of us, there is both good and bad, and we should explore this history without either credulity or outright hostility.

    That’s why I’m so drawn to religious sites, especially the minority ones. They are living fragments it seems, sunken beneath sidewalks, hidden behind high walls, obscured by bakkal (grocery stores) or büfe selling döner.


    Personally I’m fascinated by the role that faithful men such as Avicenna and Roger Bacon played in the development of science and philosophy. Greek science was largely preserved thanks to the work of medieval Muslim clerics — if you’re interested in this subject as I am, check out John Freely’s excellent book, Aladdin’s Lamp. Imagine what would have been lost to the world if these scholars hadn’t chosen to transcribe and preserve many of the works of Plato, Aristotle and other fascinating players in the history of ideas.

    Perhaps if we’re going to understand where we’ve gone wrong, both recently and in the past, we need to take another look at history. Let’s make it a look at the whole, though, and not obscure the parts that don’t serve us.


    What do you think? Is an honest dialogue on religion’s role worthwhile? Is it even possible, or are we too biased to look at the subject any longer? Have you read Alain De Botton’s Religion for Atheists

    I’d love to know your thoughts.

  • Reading List: Port Magazine

    March 8th, 2012

    In the contest of print versus pixel for my reading time, this is a victory for the old school. Port Magazine is a magazine for lovers of print. However, this doesn’t make it fussy or stuffy, or the slightest bit behind the times. This is merely a testament that print is still a very relevant, far from dead medium.

    A lot of magazines, rather like newspapers, these days feel like vanity, or seem to be struggling with their transition from print to pixel. Quite frankly a lot of them should abandon the paper they’re printed on.

    This doesn’t seem the case to me with Port. This is an assured magazine. And it has to do not just with the crisp paper it’s printed on, or the elegant design, but the content. Yes, this magazine has content, and it’s so good, I’m almost relieved it’s published on a quarterly basis. This is a magazine to flip through once identifying your subjects of interest and then return to later when you can properly, consider the articles, essays and opinions, the wonderful photography at a more leisurely pace. This is not a hasty, waiting room sort of mag.

    If you’re truly reluctant to part with your tablet, both the premiere and third issue are available in iPad format. Just type in Port Magazine at the iTunes store.

    But really, I think it’s worth putting your hands on the latest copy and losing yourself in the tactile pleasures of print once again.

  • Woodcutters & Management.

    March 6th, 2012


    I want to take this opportunity to thank God … or the universe. Whoever or whatever is in charge seems to have brought the sun back after what felt like an interminable season of grey. Yesterday, to pay tribute to this momentous event, I decided that I would go out and look for color, specifically, pairings of yellow and blue. At the moment, I am really enjoying the interplay between these two primary partners — red is such a prima donna don’t you think, always blazing away, snatching center stage? Sorry, I digress.

    Something else happened. While I was out shooting stuff. I heard a cry. No, it was not spring. It was a group of woodcutters. They wanted their photos taken. One of the things I love about Turkey is that the working classes are only too happy to jump in front of the camera. 


    These guys reminded me that there’s no point setting out with an agenda. The story will come, but it’ll be told through you, not by you. 

    Carl Sagan — a much more appealing voice for the virtues of reason over faith than, say, Richard Dawkins — once said something to the effect of: “We are the universe’s way of knowing itself.”

    I agree. That’s why we shouldn’t separate ourselves from it or think we can order it according to our wishes. There’s a larger reality, that’s only given to us in glimpses.


    So we can stomp through life looking for what we want, trying to prove a point, or we can watch, listen and allow the universe to peel back the curtain a bit and reveal something far more interesting than we originally imagined. Yesterday I went out looking for yellow and blue. I got a glimpse of some far more interesting color while I joked and snapped photos of these guys, nobly spotlit by a shaft or two of light in the flapping tarp above.

    Then the long shadow of management appeared and sent me on my way, and the men back to work.


    What do you think? Are we storytellers? Or merely props in a story too grand for us to comprehend? Are we woodcutters or management? Feel free to let me know. 

  • Reading list: James Salter

    March 5th, 2012

    Due to technical difficulties, I seem to have lost— in fact, deleted by my own blundering—my original post. Somebody recently suggested I start a reading list on my site, so with that in mind this is the first entry under that title.

    A Sport And A Pastime, for the simple reason that it was the first book of his I read, and also the one that has stayed with me ever since. Literally. I picked it up back in 2006, before a brief escape into the paradise of Turkey’s of Turkey’s Lycian and Aegean coasts, and have yet to relinquish this copy. I have bought other copies, and loaned them out, but it’s the one book I never put down. I’ve read it from start to finish many times, but I have often carried it with me to pop open at random and read, if only to remind myself what good writing is whenever I feel lost.

    The book tells the story of a love affair between a Yale dropout and French shopgirl as they tour France. The nameless narrator recounts their tale in fragments. What he tells has been told to him, observed by him and imagined by him. Salter’s France is as vivid as the real thing.

    I’ve accorded Mr Salter’s book my first reading list post for a simple reason. No other writer has taught me so much about good writing in the last ten years as Mr Salter. His prose is, in a word, luminous. Five words of Salter’s can render an image as vivid as even the best photographs.

    If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know what you think. If you haven’t, I can’t recommend it, or his other writings for that matter, enough.

  • Istanbul Culinary Institute: inspiration is being served.

    March 2nd, 2012


    There’s something about going to school that I really like these days. Perhaps because it’s because I didn’t properly appreciate the opportunities I had to learn when I was younger, but now I’m really eager to reconnect and engage with people in learning environments.One of my current favorites is the Istanbul Culinary Institute, which certifies chefs to go out into the world with all the requisite practical experience to set them on the road to becoming the next Gordon Ramsay (I just hope they are a tad less hot-headed).


    Personally, I admire good chefs the same way I admire good writers, painters or photographers. The talented ones are not simply making you something to eat, they’re preparing an experience that can stay with you for years. Sure it might be more fleeting, but the way we interact with and share food with each other is so integral to the enjoyment of life.

    That’s why the restaurant run by the school is one of my top choices when I’m in Beyoglu. Located just up the road from the Pera Palace it has both a daily and a seasonal menu, with interesting choices you won’t find elsewhere, like the miso infused prawns on a bed of hummus. I also had a great organic chicken soup a while back that left me with a craving for weeks. But food isn’t the only ingredient that makes this place work. There’s a wash of energy and promise here that suffuses the place. It’s an inviting place to eat, drink and try new things, while the chefs are hard at work upstairs earning their diplomas. And like the restaurant, the school really works. One of its graduates now owns and operates my favorite Yeniköy local, Molka.

    There are also weekend courses for amateur chefs who want to spice up their repertoire to impress loved ones and guests. At Istanbul Culinary Institute there’s more than one way to savor the learning experience.

    Mesrutiyet Caddesi No 59
    Tepebasi 34437, Istanbul
    +90 212 251 2214