Archive for October, 2012
As I mentioned earlier this month, I chose Sirkeci Train Station as a location for the photo shoot and interview I took part in for Marie Claire’s November Issue, all about November in Istanbul. I’ve been in this station countless times, and love to photograph here. What was funny about this occasion is that the minute Hasan Deniz, the photographer, put down his camera bag a station security guard with a pistol on his hip arrived and told us we couldn’t shoot here without permission. It didn’t matter that all around us were Japanese tourists with equally expensive cameras and glass taking pictures. We suddenly needed permission and 500 TL to make it legit. Somehow Ece Üremez, the editor, managed to work some magic and get things rolling without any money having to change hands. However, it was hard for me not to burst out laughing throughout the shoot because the minute Hasan started shooting, all the Japanese tourists started photographing me as well. One of them virtually steadied his massive telephoto lens on Hasan’s shoulder.
If you’re interested, here are the Q&A’s:
Someone said to me at the café where I’m writing this right now: “I know you, you’re famous!” While I was somewhat taken aback, I smiled, and replied, “Oh, really … am I?” Then she responded, “Yes, you’re Sofia’s father.” I laughed because it made sense. Every time we stroll into a café, you turn heads. Every time we sit down, you charm a laugh out of me or someone else. If my only claim to fame is you, that’s just fine with me. I couldn’t be prouder.
As Kurban Bayram or Eid al-Adha is one of the most important holidays in the year, I wanted to experience it up close. Yesterday I The festival, which marks the occasion and test of Abraham’s faith in God, when he was commanded to sacrifice his dearest, his one and only son Ishmael. When the obedient yet blindfolded Abraham raised the blade to slaughter Ishmael, the story goes God was merciful and replaced Abraham’s son with a ram, who was slaughtered in his place. The festival is observed on the 10, 11, 12 days of the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar, which means it comes roughly 11 days earlier for each Gregorian calendar year.
It’s only relatively recently that the sacrifice of livestock stopped being done all across the city. The streets once ran red during the festival, which might not have been easy for those with delicate stomachs. While I’m glad I witnessed it, I must admit I was feeling a little queasy after I left Ümit Kasap (butcher) in the Fatih Kadınlar Pazarı (Fatih Women’s Market). Anyway, Iyi Bayramlar!
I recently composed a half page piece for the Globe & Mail, one of Canada’s national broadsheets regarding Istanbul’s café culture, and my pick for the best coffee joint in the city. It was nice to see they used my photography as well. I must say I had a great time researching the piece, as drinking coffee and people-watching seems to be one of favorite pastimes. They didn’t edit or alter much of what I submitted. I had hoped to include a link to their website, but the piece has only appeared in print. To read the full text please follow the link below the article picture.
Don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for workshops. I think it’s great to see how people work, how they create. Today I went to the old city as we just move house and are in need of some new lighting. I decided to go old school, as in Ottoman old school. For some of my Turkish friends Ottoman touches around the house can feel a little kitsch, but I like an eclectic mix of contemporary and old, and one of the things I really enjoy, kitsch or not, are Ottoman-style lamps.
In order to see if I could save some money, I decided to pay a visit to a han where I remembered seeing a lamp maker. At first, I thought he was gone but then I called out up the stair above the closed dükkan above and then then popped my head up the stair, where I was fortunate enough to find Ejder Bey. Ejder means “dragon” in Turkish, which is kind of cool. This dragon doesn’t breathe fire, however. Instead, he breathes light into lamps. Not only did I find a good price on some Ottoman style lighting, I got to hang out and see him assemble the pieces. I really enjoyed his workshop. All the bits and pieces, the metal shavings on the floor. I love the mess in here. There’s something very satisfying about the disarray. A tidy workshop seems dishonest somehow, don’t you think?
A good café needs a cool street presence. In fact, it’s not just about the coffee, it’s about the vibe, which is all about the people, the kind of character and the community you draw. Holy Coffee in Çukurcuma not only brews a decent cup, they attract a lively crowd, happy to spill into the street, whether it’s for a smoke, a chat or to soak up the nice warm autumn light. This place has a friendly, lively vibe and it regularly fills with some of my favorite people. I have to say, I’m feeling the love.
What is it about train stations? They’re certainly a reminder of the most civilized form of mass transportation ever conceived, a place where you can travel in relative comfort, style and not somehow feel dehumanized at the same point. That’s not to say there aren’t routes or stations (especially in India) that can’t be cramped or uncomfortable, but how romantic is our notion of trains? This station was the last terminal in the legendary Orient Express. Embarking or disembarking here would be something special. Just imagine the people who trafficked through this place. I recently chose it as a location for a magazine photo shoot, where I was fortunate enough to be the subject (I’ll let you know the details when the November issue magazine hits the stands). Train stations in Istanbul like this one seem to communicate the transitional nature of this country from a dwindling empire to republic and also the cultural flow from east to west and vice-versa.
It’s somewhat sad that this piece of history through which commuters pass daily will become obsolete when the Marmaray Project is completed. Their journey will be safer, faster and more efficient, but given that a trip through here is equally about the journey and the destination, it’s worth pausing to reflect on a beauty that still draws admirers.
No innocent people were harmed in the crafting of this post. Just some fish. Yes, my friends, the streets have come alive with the sound of “Beş Lira! Beş Lira! Beş Lira! Evet Palamut! Beş Lira! Beş Lira! Beş Lira!” Palamut, a kind of Turkish Bonito is in season at the moment, and no matter where you go they all seem to be 5tl (Roughly $2.50 US) per fish, which is a mighty fine deal for catch of the day. This oily fish is a perennial favorite of many fishstanbulians—sorry could resist, but didn’t. They’re caught both in the Bosporus and Black Sea, and probably chock full of all the right omega fatty acids. So Bonito appetito! Their suffering isn’t in vain. It’s Friday and this nice man below will do all the hard work for you, like gut and behead the little devils. Now stop staring at me, fisheye, you had it coming, and you know it.
Today I was out researching a story on café culture for a foreign newspaper and I saw the Romani girl above carrying this small boy past the cafe I was sitting at in Karaköy, where the privileged young and beautiful lounge, surf and socialize. She was importuning some man for a handout or something she wanted. It happens all the time, but there was something striking about her. No one batted an eyelash. About an hour or so later I stopped for a tea on the Golden Horn past the Galata Bridge still thinking about the story I’m working on. There she was again perched on a stool with a glass of tea at her feet and a foolishly long cigarette, awkward between her painted nails, and this young boy, her brother, I hope, fast asleep in her lap. She’s tiny and he looks almost half her bodyweight, yet she carries him around and tenderly kisses his forehead and picks nits from his hair and all the while he sleeps, ragdoll sound. Then the çaycı took the stool from her for another customer. While everybody else was snapping photos of the Golden Horn I couldn’t take my eyes from her. I gave her enough for a tea and a balik ekmek, but certainly don’t feel any better for having done so. People have accused me of being an angry man. I think it’s because there are times in life I feel completely powerless to do anything, or transform the reality before me into anything positive. She’s 12 years old. I’m angry.