• People

    The salvagers

    They’re as essential a part of the community as the fish monger or the green grocer, but they’re seldom greeted by residents with anything but disdain and sometimes hostility. Even the street dogs will sometimes let loose and kick up a fuss, bark at them and chase them in packs. Yet in a city like Istanbul these people provide an essential service, one of many that keeps this city moving  They take our discarded papers, boxes, cans and beer bottles to recycle depots, saving taxpayers the feel-good service of a recycling service. They also unburden city sanitation workers of a great deal of waste, and somehow salvage a living, digging through smelly and possibly dangerous bins, combing society’s junk piles for today’s treasures. I couldn’t help but notice the man above as he paused in his recovery efforts this morning and sat down with a perfectly folded intact copy of…

  • People,  Photography,  Places

    Kids and cameras

    One of the great things about taking pictures in Turkey is you don’t always have to look for subjects. Sometimes your subjects find you. Yesterday as I was taking a walk around with my friend, Ahmet, a proper professional photographer, he had the idea of going to the top of a parking garage to get a different, unobstructed view of Galata Tower. As he was shooting four kids sprang upon me wanting their photos taken. It’s always a gift when something like this happens. When you have willing subjects there’s an interesting energy at play. Their leader in particular, was a real comedian, posing and alive, proud to display his tattoos on either arm, and showing me the invisible boat on his back which had sailed away, he said, pointing at the Bosporus. After Ahmet and I finished up taking pictures here, we took a walk to Eminönü. We were…

  • People

    Dear Sof II

    Today you’re two years old. It’s the strangest thing. When I grew up, it seemed as if it was your duty to thank your parents for your existence. Maybe, but I think that’s only half  the story …  since becoming a parent, I feel it’s the other way around. Right now I want, I need, to thank you for your existence. I don’t know quite how to describe fatherhood, as it’s not like anything I expected, or ever experienced. Yes, it takes a lot of energy, but it gives me so much more. This website is dedicated to you because you made me want to rediscover life without the biases, without the filters that we adopt as we age. Every day I spend with you brings me back a little closer to that fantastic openness of childhood, a time when your emotions are raw and unchecked, a time when you…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    Turkey’s hardest working actor?

    Yigit Ozsener is a busy man. I’ve been wanting to talk to him about his trade for some time, but his schedule is tight. The day before we meet, he’s up at 5am to get to a Sapanca location shoot which doesn’t allow him home before midnight, in order to shoot an 8-page scene in the blazing heat, and looks significantly darker than two days before when we talked about doing an interview. He’s down to the final two episodes of his latest series, the acclaimed 25-episode  Son (Final), before a much-needed hiatus. “I’ve worked non-stop for three years. No vacations,” he says smiling, and without the faintest whiff of complaint on the ferry to Kadiköy. The actor loves what he does, but didn’t always know he wanted to be a thespian. Originally from Izmir, on Turkey’s mellow Aegean coast, he did his undergrad in communications and electrical engineering and progressed…

  • People,  Places

    The two shores

    Nowhere is the contrast between Istanbul’s coexisting communities more apparent to me than on the Beykoz-Yeniköy ferry. Everyday these small, roughly 30-passenger capacity craft putter back and forth across the Bosporus, bringing Anatolia to Europe and vice-versa. Once upon a time there might have been a more upstairs-downstairs style transition as wealthy businessmen crossed one way to their factories and warehouses on the Anatolian shore, while wage-earners and house servants crossed to the other. In Ottoman times, Yeniköy was an affluent mix of Greek and Turk, and later on, Jewish settlers. Now that the Greek and Jewish communities have dwindled but still exist, it’s a mainly Turkish, primarily Republican group, with a strong sprinkling of foreigners. By contrast, Beykoz is a much more religious and conservative area, with no sycamore lined boulevards or fancy cafes. In Beykoz there might be a tekel or two selling Efes beer, but they aren’t readily…

  • People

    Profile: Eko Zeyno

    Since last summer I’ve been looking into stories about what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s downright scary about Turkey’s food supply. When you become a parent you suddenly want to educate yourself about things you’ve never thought enough about in the past. One of the most interesting aspects of the story is the organic food industry and what’s holding it back when so much of the world no longer needs convincing as to its merits. Recently, I talked to Zeynep Çelen, the natural living (these are my terms) guest expert on Star TV’s Melek about the organic food scene and her take on what needs to be done if it’s to take root. If I were to derive a one-word response from her on the greatest obstacle to Turkey’s organic food movement, it would be: attitude. You’ve been quite vocal in social media countering negative opinions towards the organic foods movement. What’s the…

  • People,  Places

    The rites of spring continue: Hidrellez

    Every May 5 Hidrellez — or Ederlezi in Romani — erupts into the mother of all street parties in the backstreets of Sultanahmet. It is a celebration of spring, and a fusion of the names of the two prophets Hizir (the Green One) and Ilyas. Central to the rites is the practice of writing a wish on a scrap of paper and pinning it to ribbons on great swaths of fabric hung up in the streets. Traditionally, these wishes would be affixed to rose bushes at night, and then found again the following day and thrown out to sea. This year some opportunistic parties seem to have tried to relocate the celebrations to Park Orman and put on a concert, but to me this seemed like a crass maneuver to steal the thunder from what has traditionally been a truly great street party. I’ve tried to attend every Hidrellez I can since…

  • People

    Old Corners, Bright New Lights: LOS DU MAL

    Istanbul has plenty that could, and perhaps should, change. However there are still plenty of old pieces of this city that only need a little polish to produce volumes of atmosphere. That’s why I’ve been really pleased to get acquainted with Metin Ilktekin and Raphael Faeh, the like-minded talents behind Los Du Mal. These two interesting characters are making it their business to illuminate and energize some of the overlooked corners of the city, and have recently set up their Muvakkat Studio in Roumelie Han, one of the great Pera buildings that has fallen into decline over the years, yet still manages to provide plenty of inspiration for painters and other artists, as well as serving as the HQ for the latest incarnation of the Turkish Communist Party. The pair met in Zurich three years ago but came from entirely different professional disciplines. Metin is a former private jet salesman…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    Profile: Azize Tan, Istanbul Film Festival Director

    Whenever I get to see Azize Tan, I get inspired. It’s not simply that she has one of the most interesting jobs I can imagine, or that she can talk for hours about one of my favorite subjects, cinema — it’s her infectious enthusiasm for her work. This year is her sixth as director, and her 20th working with the Istanbul Film Festival which just closed its 31st year. Something of a marathon event, it ran from March 31-April 15, with Ms. Tan dealing with everything from sponsorships to going to hospital with fainting jury members, all while attending as many screenings as possible. Azize graciously took some time out last week to have a coffee with me and tell me about the life and trials of a festival director, which is not just the fun of watching films, but a struggle, for resources, venues and the recognition that film…