• A fire in the mind

    January 14th, 2013


    Only one colour can break the tonal tide of white/grey/blue that this season pours down upon us. It’s like a vitamin for the soul. A beacon in a white night. The hue of courage. Unlike cowardly yellow, it knows how to stand up to nature’s desaturation and never blench. Eat red. Drink red. Wear red. See red. Hold back the chill of winter. Kindle a fire in the mind.







  • Café girl

    October 30th, 2012

    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.

  • Kayseri Han

    August 6th, 2012

    Wandering through Eminönü I discovered another interesting han. The light spilling through the atrium was magnificent. It’s too bad such buildings aren’t put to better use, seeing as no one seems to build them anymore. I’m sure the quick answer why no one builds structures like this is economics — but still … couldn’t we make more inspiring architecture for people to work in like this?

    Such spaces never fail to spark my sense of wonder — it’s interesting to think of all the different tenants in times past, who climbed the stairs, said good morning to one another, shared a conversation over a glass of tea, a cigarette. In my opinion these hans are every bit as interesting as the more famous monuments in Istanbul, mostly because they are mementos of everyday life that has changed so drastically over the years, the minor events, the details that history books overlook. Read More…

  • First minute of dark, last hour of light

    June 30th, 2012

    Last light from a scorched day draws away. First the chips in the marble, the cracks in the blistered paint fill with it—as if it spills like the contents of a stone pitcher poured sideways across the surfaces. Green goes opaque and blue bleeds to black. In Istanbul night rises, Read More…

  • Discovered in a han

    June 19th, 2012

    In my dreams I ascend buildings, while the stairs behind me crumble into a gaping abyss. Up and up I go while the way back down becomes impossible. There’s something of that feeling every time I discover a new, or rather, an old han. These old trade buildings provide endless inspiration for me, and I get lost in them in more ways than one. There are the sounds, the clink of hammer on metal, a distant voice penetrating a cracked door, a laugh. Silhouettes at the end of corridors, engulfed in blinding light. The feel, the mustiness of age and neglect. A wary look from a passerby. The whir of retrofit air conditioners. Then there are the other discoveries. Read More…

  • No other place: Yeniköy

    May 14th, 2012

    Is it the architecture of yalilar, and konaklar? Your broad boulevard of plane trees? The secrets promised in your hidden lanes latticed with vines?  The glimpses  granted through spiky gates? The crumbling stone walls, the tucked away churches. Is it the wash of sea air through the fragrant leaves? Or the light that paints incredible texture on wood and stone, slanting low in the evenings?

    Could it be the meetings you’ve brought me? The welcome sound of familiar voices? The cups of coffee, the glasses of wine? Is it your slinking alley cats, eyes flashing between the grass? The street dog who beats her tail into the pavement every time I pass?

    Perhaps it’s all of these things, Yeniköy. But there’s one other thing that makes you indelible. You’re my daughter’s first home. Now there’s no other place. It’s strange, even though you’re with me, I’m missing you.

  • Japon Bahçesi

    April 26th, 2012

    One of these days I will be lucky enough to visit Japan during cherry blossom season. Until then, however, I’m lucky enough to have discovered this wonderful little gift from the city of Shimonoseki, Japan to Istanbul. Since 1972 the cities have been sister cities because of their similar landscapes and straits. This park was built about 10 years ago to commemorate the friendship in Baltalimani, not far from the Sakip Sabanci Hospital.

    The three weeks I spent in Japan a few years ago were nothing less than incredible. Since then, I have a radar for anything reminiscent of Japan. This is the perfect place to take a book or a loved one (or both) and a flask of green tea, and relax and spend a few hours. Don’t know what it’s like on weekends but it is very quiet weekdays. It’s especially nice if you’re a parent because the grass is clean and with the exception of the pond there are limited dangers for the small ones. Sof and I made blossom boats to float on the pond.

    Thank you, Shimonoseki.

  • Easter in Turkey

    April 16th, 2012

    This weekend I was granted a fascinating glimpse into Greek Orthodox Easter at the Church of St. Nicolas in Yeniköy, Istanbul. Turkey’s Rum (Greek/Byzantine) community is the nation’s smallest minority, with a community of perhaps no more than 2000 people. Here the Rum Ortodoks church serves not only as an important spiritual adviser in life, but as a way of keeping community alive and strong.

    As an outsider it was a true pleasure, to feel so welcome. The Turkish-Greek community have been granting me and my family a special welcome to such events, and seem happy to receive all whether they’re Orthodox or Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or any other denomination. Since my daughter, Sofia’s birth, however, I’ve felt a real desire to share the experiences of other minorities as much as possible here in Turkey, since she too is a minority citizen. I must admit, though, I feel a special closeness with the Rum community, perhaps in part because of Sofia’s name, and its Greek origin. For me the giving of a name has a special significance, and once a person is named, that meaning begins to shape that person’s existence.

    One of the most special moments, in fact, was taking the portrait above. I was drawn to her luminous face immediately on Friday night’s reenactment of the funeral of Christ. She was the very first person I photographed. It was only later when my friend, Rea, properly introduced us that I learned her name was Sofia. Saturday morning I brought my own Sofia to meet her for the throwing of the daphne leaves. Young Sofia was at first intimidated by the deep bass voice of the priest and his hymns, but was later coaxed inside by some kindly women with breadsticks. Hugely entertaining too for her was the throwing of the daphne leaves.

    Midnight Saturday events culminated with the lighting of candles. This was truly spectacular, and church numbers were swollen by attendees visiting from Greece. Whether you’re religious or not there’s something special on a nights like these. You can’t help but feel moved, connected, illuminated. It’s not simply the hymns and the rites, the faces of the faithful, the candles. It’s the sense of goodwill and the lightness which is almost tangible.

    My hope is that this won’t be my last Easter with Turkey’s Greek community. The events of the last weekend are one more reason I feel so fortunate to be with my family in the here and now in Turkey. Happy Easter.

  • A Pasaj in Time

    April 13th, 2012

    Ever want to time travel? I do. Not for sinister reasons like making myself insanely wealthy by choosing the right lottery numbers or even more noble ones like preventing some of history’s great tragedies. I’d be too afraid accidentally re-write my very existence out of time and space. I would simply like to travel back as an observer, gaze at the people, get a taste of the air, sample a glass of the wine, listen to the sounds, feel the textures of another era. Short of building a time machine, however, there are places you can go where you can gaze backward through time.

    One of them is the Suriye Pasaji at the Tünel end of Beyoglu. This place is magic. It has a cavernous atrium. Open walkways. The office of a daily Greek newspaper. A fur shop, and even a vast basement vintage shop to outfit you for your passage backward in time. There are some tenants that don’t really seem to fit, like the Sultanahmet Köftecisi — but if they help pay the rent and allow this building to remain in the here and now, then their presence is probably worth it. Upstairs are studios and creative suites, lawyers offices. And maybe even a seedy night spot.

    This is a building with a soul. How many lives have imprinted themselves in this space, even if only in echoes … countless, I’d imagine. Just think of the daily traffic beneath the grand atrium, the cigarettes smoked on the vertiginous walkways, the conversations, the whispered desires, the intrigues both personal and political.

    The stone above the entrance says 1908—the year the 3rd Army Corps of Salonica marched on Constantinople, the Young Turk Revolution, when the Ottoman Parliament’s 30 year suspension was put to an end and a new ruling elite was established. The beginning of the end of the Empire.

    The enchantment of this building is that it’s something of a self-contained world. Stepping in off Istiklal Caddesi or one of the side streets, there’s an abrupt change. Outside sound seems to disappear. You’re gulped back into the past. Perhaps it’s the effect of the atrium, which draws sound, air and your eye upward into the aether of diffused light.

    They don’t make buildings like this anymore. And that’s a shame, because this space is truly special. It’s just the sort of place I hoped to discover more of in Istanbul.

    Historic, atmospheric and more than passing strange, Suriye Pasaji is an Istanbul treasure that shouldn’t be lost to the world or converted into a crass shopping mall. There has been some movement to protect this tangible piece of history, and anybody interested in finding out more can visit the Facebook page set up by a group dedicated to its preservation.

    If you should happen to have any intelligence on this building, its history or past tenants, personal or otherwise, or know someone who does, please contact me. I would love to do some follow-up stories.

  • 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.