Its rare to photograph relationships. But sometimes a photographer and a city come together, filled with nostalgia, memories and fluidity so intense and intimate that its nothing less than a masterpiece. Ara Guler’s Istanbul is one such book which is not to be missed.
I had originally been introduced to this book about a year ago by a dear friend but because it was so expensive then, there was no chance of getting it. And recently, in the sale where I’ve been spending all my money (a bookshop nearby has 70% off) I found it!
So what is this book really about and who is Ara Guler? Its not a travel book but a documentation of a Istanbul which once was. And this all is poetically brought together with personal nostalgia and sensitivity by the Magnum photographer Ara Guler. I would certainly say that this is the best documentation of Istanbul I’ve ever seen.
In terms of the make of the book, its hardbound with a dust jacket. In the images you’ll see that there is a major glossiness to the cover but that is only because I covered it with a plastic sheet. The book has great printing, all images in black&white. Some of them are single page and some of them are spreads. Ara Guler uses both medium format and 35mm to create his images, evident from the quality and printing. The book is thick but very light for its size.
When you look through the images, words of Orhan Pamuk whisper in your mind, as if they both are different bodies of the same soul. The book focuses deeply on the memories of Istanbul, how it was and what one would see when wandering about in the streets in 1950’s and 60’s. Guler’s images are immersed in drama and fascination, even the mundane of things look spell bounding.
Sometimes living in a city or a hometown, we start taking it for granted, ignoring the details around us, taking the life as routine. But when we as photographers and artists, stop for a moment and look at the space around us, which we’ve grown up in, which holds a thousand memories, it can create works with emotions unsurpassed. Ara Guler does just that and I would say this book is not what it is because he’s a great photographer but also because he interprets the city as a part of him and who is really is.