• Art / Design / Craft

    Bosporus Binoculars

    Usually the amount of junk that people put between me and a great view irritates me. But there’s something kind of quirky cool about these fixed binoculars outside Yeniköy Spor Klubu that entertains me. They possess an appealing retro robotic ugliness like something you might see in a Fritz Lang movie, or the Jetsons. There are moments when I almost expect them to spring into action and start talking.

  • 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…

  • Places

    A New Spring

    I have a recurring dream: A hundred years work is accomplished in one brief night. Istanbul wakes to find the cars, the trucks, and the roads which convey them swallowed by an unstoppable force. A forest. The corridors and hills of broken asphalt are gone. While we all slumbered the parked cars and roads have been broken into their constituents by an inexorable patrol of ivy, to nourish the earth. And from their ruins have sprouted trees—the kind that take a hundred years to grow to their full splendor—who are now the city council, all interconnected and communicating through a network of roots. The forest is king and holds sway within the city confines. It has commissioned foxes to sweep the city of its rats and falcons to cleanse the sky of its pigeons. Every rooftop is an island rising above a swirling sea of green. From outside the city traffic…

  • Photography,  Places

    A Dream Named Thessaloniki II

      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…

  • Photography,  Places

    A Dream Named Thessaloniki

    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…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    City Sketcher

     © Samantha Zaza One of the things I wanted to do when I started this site was to provide sketches of city life. Before launching I worked furiously for a couple of hours every day, honing my skills. But I’m not there yet, and will continue to rely on my photographic skills in order to present the visual component of most of my stories for the time being. © Samantha Zaza That’s why I want to take the time to introduce you to a terrific artist we have working away right here in Istanbul already providing incredible glimpses into the beauty and mystery of this city and others. You may have noticed her site Harika (meaning wonderful, fantastic, incredible … in Turkish) listed on the blog roll to your right before today, but I really hope you’ll visit it — that’s why I’ve stopped myself at just three of her sketches. The thing I…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Photography

    Accidental Patterns

    PYTHAGOREAN PIPES. THE TETRACTYS. What is it that makes something beautiful? Is it when it suggests something to you which creates a pattern in your head? Is it about achieving symmetry, or is it asymmetrical? Is it an accident or something you can create? I wonder. I’m inclined to think the most beautiful things are discovered by an accident. Is beauty created, or discovered. No matter how genius an artist or scientist is, I’m of the belief that they stumble along to find the patterns in life and highlight them. How many accidents have found happy conclusions? I think it’s when we’re forced to look at something a different way that a beautiful new truth is discovered. SUNLIGHT THROUGH A DERELICT FACADE IMPOSES ITS PATTERN ON ANOTHER BUILDING. Pythagoras, the mathematician, mystic and ‘lover of wisdom’, believed there was a pattern to nature, and is often credited with discovering musical…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Books & Lit

    Reading List: Port Magazine

    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…

  • Photography,  Places

    Feel the Istan Blues?

    GALATA BRIDGE. It’s not easy to be blue in Istanbul. Once you were a celebrated color of the Empire, shimmering under the sun or glinting in candlelight. Now you’re neglected and marginalized. Everyone’s seeing red. Maybe I’m getting a little melancholy here, but that which was once boldly blue now looks a little cracked, a little withered and is turning a bit grey or green (maybe with envy?).  Which begs the question: is it safer to pretend you’re something different, a shade other than true blue? Whatever the truth, I’d like to celebrate the virtue, the beauty, of being blue. Doesn’t matter if you’re cracked, or peeling a bit, today is the day to stand up and declare yourself turquoise and proud! Right?

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    Sema Topaloglu: creating the artifacts of tomorrow?

    THE SIGNATURE MOTIF OF A FANTASTIC TALENT. Dear Mayor of Istanbul, I’d like to sincerely thank you and the city for the ongoing work you’re doing upgrading public transportation. I’ve lived here just over six years now, and I’ve seen a vast improvement and many positive changes. Automobile traffic its resulting pollution is a huge problem, and the more you do to unclog the streets and clean up the air, the better. In addition, you’ve made it possible for me to go from Taksim Square to my home in Yeniköy in under 40 minutes, mostly thanks to the underground. This means that rather than sitting in traffic with horns blaring and inching along at a snail’s pace, I can instead be home and spend valuable time with my daughter. This makes a huge difference to my quality of life, and I trust, hers. That’s why I don’t want to sound…