• shadow & light: the colour of the space between us

    March 21st, 2013

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    The range of emotions you experience in a city like this makes a minute wear like a day, a day like a week and a … well you get the idea. Yet there’s nothing wrong with feeling, right? But how much can you confine to such a small time and space? Something could rupture. Hope it isn’t us.

  • Kids and cameras

    August 19th, 2012

    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 standing on a street corner when we saw a guy with a Leica taking pictures. Even though he was wearing a Beşiktaş team jersey, I knew he was English immediately. What was fascinating to me was how divergent his approach was from either of ours. Wearing headphones and getting right up in people’s faces, he fired off shots without a moment’s hesitation. Ahmet made me laugh by taking a couple of shots of him at work, which caused him to pause and lift up his left headphone and smile. Turned out he was English and a street photographer known as Two Cute Dogs. He leaves no time for his subjects to be ready, willing or able.
    I think what I find most interesting about photography is unlike writing it’s a very connective pursuit. Writing is one of my passions, but can be very isolating. You can sit alone in a room and work at it, letting your mind assemble events as it will, until you find your moment of truth. With a camera you have to engage the world around you. How you do that is up to you. The nice thing is even if it’s an inanimate object you really have to interact. This connects you to things. When your subject is human, it really gets interesting.
  • Balat textures

    July 4th, 2012

    Balat is one of my favorite places to get inspired. It may be run down but the light shines differently here. There are textures, colors, scents and a mood you won’t find anywhere else in Istanbul. Last time I visited my fingers were freezing on the shutter release. Yesterday was a different story. A whole new experience, in sun-drenched, tumble-down Balat.

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  • Neighborhood watch: Tarabya

    June 5th, 2012

    In a few months we’ll probably be leaving our beloved Yeniköy for Tarabya, one village farther up the Bosporus towards the Black Sea. Like Yeniköy it’s originally a Greek village (Therapia). However, it differs from Yeniköy significantly in that it has a large natural harbor dominated by the architecture of the Tarabya Hotel which is currently under renovation. This building is unique to the Bosporus in both its architecture and its size and under normal circumstances would be an illegal building for the Bosporus, exceeding its building height restrictions, yet somehow this one snuck through. While I wouldn’t want more hotels like this crowding the shores of the Bosporus, I’m actually quite fond of it and its placement at one of the last points before the strait curls towards the Black Sea.

    Tarabya is a very mixed neighborhood. Waterside there are pricey properties and perhaps one too many a fish restaurant. Cresting the hills above, there are mansions and gated houses. In between, tumbling down the hills—sometimes literally—the buildings tend to be a bit more of a shambling affair, some from neglect, others because they were probably hastily assembled by flashlight. Regardless, there’s a friendly feel, and as I was exploring the backstreets this morning, I was hailed by three men having tea who invited me to join them. Originally from Rize in the Northeast/Black Sea region they were taking a break from working on a building behind the mosque. They were curious what a funny-looking foreigner was doing roaming the streets. For a glass of tea they got me to surrender some of my story. While I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about moving to Tarabya, it’s good to know there’s a friendly neighborhood watch.

  • B&W Istanbul

    May 31st, 2012

    You’re a stable chaos. A dangerous haven. Your noisy kind of quiet makes the sane crazy, and the crazy sane. From a lit up night you deliver a dark dawn. Your ugly beauty gives me a raging love. Your deep shadows frame the most brilliant displays.You ruin and make me, kill and resurrect me daily. We’re friends and bitter enemies. You make sin a virtue and virtue a sin.

    Istanbul, black and white, shadow and light.

    Posted in Photography | | 2 Comments
  • Dilovasi Steel

    May 28th, 2012

    By now you probably know I am fascinated by heavy industry, shipping and any kind of adventure involving these sorts of things. This Saturday I went to observe Ciner’s Fatih self-loading steel into its holds at Dilovasi on the Marmara using its four onboard cranes under leaden skies. As usual the scale of these things seems monstrous. I’m sorry I didn’t get any usable shots of the refinery itself—equal parts ugly and fascinating—as I ended up hearing a hearty bellow from security when I tried to snap a few in the parking lot.

    Maybe this will inspire you if you’re expected to do some heavy lifting this week. Happy Monday.

  • Seeing roses

    May 23rd, 2012

    Everywhere I go lately I’m seeing roses — and I don’t mean this in the proverbial sense. In Yeniköy, Tarabya and all sorts of other places there seems to be an explosion of these flowers. Red ones firing off over fences.  Pink ones blasting through slatted rails. Yellow ones bursting through every imaginable crevice. It’s an assault of color like none I’ve ever seen before. Last year I didn’t notice nearly so many. What happened? Perhaps I simply wasn’t paying attention, or perhaps they were simply planning their attack.  I’m trying not to fight it. We can co-exist, right?

    Though to a lot of people they may seem like a cheesy symbol of romance and bad poetry, I have to say I’m beginning to respect them a little bit more, un-plucked and on the vine. Perhaps it’s all the reading I’ve done on alchemy and Rosicrucianism. Perhaps it’s what natural healer Jayda Uras told me about the rose’s unique properties. Who knows? Am I being subdued by flower power? Should I be worried? Don’t know. Maybe I’m just seeing things differently.

  • The Alchemy of Pink

    April 30th, 2012

    Pink, there are times when you come off a little garish, or seem the feebler cousin of Red, lacking that vibrant color’s conviction. For some you can be a little hard to define, your hue being somewhere between Red and Magenta. But when you place yourself in partnership with Green, you truly know how to shine, perhaps even how to heal. You also know how to highlight magnificently the hours of dawn and dusk in between the contrast of slanting beams of light and long layers of shadow. You’re the color of love and the signal fire that says the equinox is here.

    Pink, you definitely have your moments. The spectrum of the universe would not be the same without you. Keep shining.

  • A Dream Named Thessaloniki II

    April 3rd, 2012

     

    I’m still wandering down the corridors of memory. Stumbling perhaps. It’s a dreamy place I’m in and I’m not yet ready to relinquish it. Thessaloniki, Salonika … what was its magic? Was it the right amount of decay versus newness? Old visions merging into the new? The people? Perhaps it was the space in which to walk, empty but not vacant.

    Modiano Market. A vast roof above, still functioning stalls. Vegetables. Eggs. Meat. Cheese. A burst of voices, laughter. A flash of a smile. Then a beautiful silhouette. Her heels clatter on the stone. Her shadowed figure merges with the light at the end of the corridor. Cafes, tavernas, mini ouzeri clustered beneath the decrepit canopy.

    More signs I can’t read. This is intriguing. I want to come back. But it is shuttered at night when I return though, drowned in shadow, and locked. Next time, stay for lunch.

    The architecture of dreams. The crumbling and the cracked. The smooth walled and restored. Soaring ceilings. Fresh paint. Just the right amount of quirk.

    A wine bar named after Hermes, the first craftsman, the first intelligencer, the first alchemist. Didn’t sample the food, but the beer works. The dining locals seem pleased. A crowd worthy of more than a glance. Animated faces. Families. Couples. Cigarette smoke shot through with late afternoon sun. This too is a place worth returning to.

    An interesting couple. He’s black clad, alternative, she’s pretty, flashing eyes and a crinkling burn scar on her arm she makes no attempt  to hide. They are backlit, spotlit almost, in the window. They are having too intense a conversation for me to interrupt. I’d like to take their photo, but the mood between them isn’t right, it seems. There’s a debate, maybe about trivial matters, maybe something serious. Best to leave them in their bubble.

    Thessaloniki light. It penetrates the windows, the buildings, the cracks. It has space to illuminate and bring alive anything it washes down on. The air  moves too. It is not thick or heavy, but fragrant with the sea and the perfume of trees. Perhaps it’s not so strange that the cigarette smoke never chokes or cloys.

    The photography museum. A well curated collection by Greek talent shooting the vastly different places across the Middle East, from Dubai to Cairo in a converted warehouse building. Just the right amount of despots and the downtrodden. A suitably stark cafe with a terrific view of the passenger terminal quay. More parents and children. A toddler kicks the table, shattering the peace with his father’s coffee cup. Nobody minds.

    Back to The Met. An international crowd. Greek. Turkish. Arab and African. Japanese. All dressed in expensive, well fitting clothes. Late afternoon drinks. I’m always greeted in Greek. I like this. English has infiltrated too much of the world, stolen too much of its mystery. I like hearing other languages, like codes waiting to be broken.

    The sun is falling. Time to put the camera down. Another dream awaits me in the room.

    This one I won’t photograph.

  • A Dream Named Thessaloniki

    April 2nd, 2012

    It has excited my imagination for some time, but I know very little about it. I know it’s Mustafa Kemal’s birthplace, but ironically not part of the great modern state he created. It’s often compared to Izmir. Its history, rich, significant … Greek, Roman, Ottoman, 20th century, Jewish. It’s a port city, Aegean, named after the princess born on the day of a great Macedonian victory.

    To hell with guidebooks. Wander. Get a vague sense of direction and then to let all five, or is it six, senses lead me. I don’t want anybody else to discover for me. Why not relinquish the burdensome anxiety that something will be missed without Fodor’s or Lonely Planet?

    Yes, I have expectations, but seeing how close one’s imagination stands up to reality is another pleasure. Thessaloniki … Salonika … Selanik? doesn’t disappoint. There are echoes of other port cities, Izmir, Beirut, common architectural details like shuttered windows, but this is a city with its very own feel. Perhaps it’s the imprint of that vast and important aforementioned history.

    The Greeks are a far more resilient people than the images on the nightly news would suggest of late. Despite their recent economic woes, the locals here seem very much up to the task of appreciating the kind of wealth that only their geography can provide. Everyone is concerned but overall, I sense resigned calm, not panic, not depression. Why waste sunlight and spring?

    Other things I notice … the choice of a single species of tree for each of the central streets. Sunlight spilling down on the wide sidewalks, filling the cracks in the cobblestone malls. Corners and alleys alive with a kind of decrepit charm. But mostly space … space without excess emptiness. Spaces creeping with interest and imagination. It’s not a big city, not especially crowded, but there a lot of places where the inhabitants can go out and enjoy themselves. And they’re full to capacity. Metal jugs of wine. Grilled sardines. Grilled cheeses. Clinking plates. Cigarette smoke spiraling up into the air. Greek voices suddenly penetrated by clamorous Turkish ones. The streets, the city continue to replenish themselves.

    Atriums. Passages. Shafts of blue colored light and then Hermes Bar. High ceilings, tall windows, long late afternoon light. More cigarette smoke. I need to find this place again. Is it fate that I’m brought to a bar named after the God of all alchemists? And no, I can’t tell you where it is, the card is in Greek. But its location is no longer a mystery withheld from me. It will not dissolve like a dream.

    The vastness of the Aegean washes in empty except for a handful of freighters. Olive trees toss in a salt-tinged breeze. Orange trees hang heavy with fruit. Children play at their parent’s feet. Teenagers gather to greet and gawk at each other across Aristotelous Square.

    Time to find another glass of wine. The economy is not thriving. Life is.