• People

    the blessing

    Open a newspaper or turn on the television and you’ll probably get a pretty troubling picture of things in Turkey these days. Sometimes it’s enough to make an outsider want to switch off entirely. Fortunately, peppered in amongst the drama, life still presents many moments of genuine hope here on a daily basis. One such was a couple of weekends ago in Yeniköy. Over the last couple of years I’ve been truly fortunate to attend and enjoy the welcome of the local Rum (Byzantine Greek) community at various events and ceremonies. It’s something that grounds you. And witnessing the baptism of one small but treasured member of their community was a highpoint in my nine years in Turkey, moreover since it was something my family was welcomed in to share. Until a couple of Sundays ago, I had never been fortunate enough to attend such a ceremony. It was truly interesting to watch. Religion gets a…

  • Photography

    cansu & baskın

    Don’t know about you, but I like a good party. However the party of parties is a wedding, so I have to say I like a good wedding even more. Today I thought I’d  reminisce about my favourite assignment of 2013: Cansu & Baskin’s Wedding. Like all the best jobs it was an opportunity to collaborate with some great talent, including a true friend and a great visual storyteller, Ahmet Polat — I certainly wouldn’t have been comfortable attempting to tell this grand a story without him. Over 400 guests! So let it be known that his shots feature prominently in this collection. Now that you know who I documented the event with, let’s introduce you to our two leads in this grand love story, the bride, Cansu, and the groom, Baskin. Nice couple, no? If only every assignment found me working with such a fun pair. Not surprisingly, their…

  • Places

    the wonder of the pinewood

    In Istanbul it’s increasingly difficult to remember that our world isn’t comprised entirely of concrete and glass. Luckily this city has a few surprises left in store. One of which is only a few hundred meters from Haci Osman Metro station. Rough and unkept, unlike Emirgan Park or Belgrad Forest, is a large, and largely unused, pine wood. Although it’s open to the public, it’s not open to cars — although, unfortunately, it did seem to be open to the  odd motorcycle. A few hundred meters from the entrance, you begin to lose sight of anything but the stands of pine. A blue sky looms overhead, and sunlight filters through the branches. Soon the city disappears, and aside from the wail of the occasional siren, you hear little more than the wind through the trees. Stray a little from the beaten paths and you’ll soon feel the soft springy carpet…

  • Places

    a strange climate

    When I started this blog it was with the intention of pointing out things to appreciate, especially with regard to this city which has been my home for eight years. This city has brought me so many good things, and as a result I’ve wanted to pay it back. However, I’ve had something of a philosophical conundrum in the last week. It’s been difficult to go back to that same reality. In the space an hour these days I can find hope in some simple act of kindness from the people of this city, and lose it in the next second. I’m not usually into finger-pointing, but it’s usually in the moments when one of the city’s or country’s democratically elected leaders speaks. In the last hour there’s a man on the TV saying some very frightening things, about minorities, foreign interests, about the abuse of his head scarf-wearing sisters,…

  • People,  Places

    what’s next, turkey?

    Yesterday people of all sorts gathered to continue the celebration of a victory in Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Left-wing, right-wing, liberal, conservative, nationalist, socialist … you name them. There was a constant flow of Turkish citizens of every age, ethnicity and subculture. There are banners with socialist slogans, nationalist slogans flying next to the rainbow GLBT flags everywhere. People pose to have their pictures taken on burned-out police cars and buses, while some diligent protestors sweep up the rubble and debris nearby. Some of it is theirs, some of it the police’s. However, this feels like a major victory for peaceful protestors who were violently abused by their police force and government (see previous post). It’s a strange victory, though, because it’s not being acknowledged as a defeat by the man and he government they took on. What started as a minor protest for a small park has rolled…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    workshop wonderland

    Yesterday I had an all too brief glimpse into the mind of one of the most fascinating creatives in Istanbul — someone who successfully blurs the line between art, architecture, design and craft — in what might well be the most distinctive style I’ve seen anywhere in years. At some point I will have to do a full exploration and profile of Sema Topaloglu’s Cibali workshop and showroom. Her work environment is a veritable wonderland of organic shapes and materials, prototypes and projects. You’d almost think you were standing in a special effects workshop for a motion picture, except that the materials are not made of foam and cardboard, and she’s not creating illusions, so much as fabricating a new physical reality in media such as Black Sea hardwood, raw iron, glass and marble. There are huge mushroom lamp models, wood blocks representing a neighbourhood planning project she’s working on, multi-level…

  • Places

    modern lines, ottoman opulence: the grand tarabya

    Today I had the chance to preview a hotel that I’ve been anticipating with a mixture of excitement and as well as apprehension. The Grand Tarabya is almost legend among a certain generation of Turks who once regularly visited it for afternoon tea. Although I have no history with the hotel, I am fascinated by it as its architecture and dimension are unique to a shoreline Bosphorus hotel. I am also now a resident of Tarabya, so its operation is of some importance to my neighbourhood’s wellbeing. Right now the marina and the shoreline are undergoing a huge transformation in which the Grand Tarabya is the focal point. This building’s curving, modern lines and height are something you’d be more likely to see along the Corniche in Beirut than on the shores of the Bosporus, where buildings generally don’t exceed a four-storey height limit. And at 12 floors, it makes…

  • Places

    Lines in the silence

    Quiet as a church. Swallowing footsteps like  thick murk. I know you’re holding back, hidden behind closed doors.  I’m also waiting, waiting for the shadow to cross the gleam beneath your door. You’re not moving. You’ve drawn a line in the silence. But inside there’s a big shout welling up. And I know you’re desperate to release it. No need to procrastinate, Istanbul. I’m ready. Tell me.