Between the Silences of Images

Late night in Fatih – Sultanahmet. By Ismail Lagardien (Copyright)

I recently spent about a week in Istanbul. Most of my time was spent visiting installations of the Istanbul Biennale, and two or three other places and art galleries. My favourite gallery, the Istanbul Modern, is being rebuilt, and temporarily housed elsewhere, in Beyoğlu. I am on some deadlines, and in the middle of an especially tough period, but once I emerge, I will collate my thoughts and present them in an essay, with photographs. I will focus, in particular, on some of the ways that art spaces have been inserted into working class areas, and have been part of gentrification – which places inordinate pressure on the poor, refugees, and immigrants. Please check back or sign up for updates. That way you will be notified when the essay is posted.

Istanbul Bread Seller

First published in 7 June 2018. He arrives early in the morning, balancing a load of bread on his head. He sets up a makeshift stall on the banks of the Bosporus. If you get there early, you would get a fresh piece. We sat, and spoke for a while. I spoke no Turkish, and he spoke no English. The bread tasted sweet.

The bread seller 

BELOW Added on 25 November…. I should write about the bread sellers of Istanbul when I get a chance. Below is a photograph I took in October. See article on my visit, here.

Backstories of a Picture: Morning in an Istanbul Bar

5 January 2017. I recently read a story on the power of a single photograph, published by Time Magazine. The Time story was inspired by an exhibition, One Image, described as a pièce de résistance, featuring just one photograph, a seemingly inconsequential, blurred image of a young girl sat on a deck chair. It recounts how, with the ubiquity of cellphone cameras, we are swamped, daily, by hundreds of images. The writer presents the one image, this particular case, as an experiment to force us to look at one image, and push us to look more closely at the back story of the picture. One Image was part of a larger exhibition, Podróż do nieśmiertelności fotografii: Photography Never Dies (The Journey to Immortality: Photography Never Dies) held at the Main Railway Station in Wroclaw, Poland.

The story drew my attention to the very many pictures I have made over the years, and especially, to the ‘back story’ of each picture or set of pictures. It also reminded me of the way that I have drifted away from photography, the act of making pictures, towards the philosophy and sociology of photography. I want to share, then, short stories on some of the pictures I have made in places around the world, as a way to give greater meaning to what I originally considered to be the time and spaces between photographs.

Notwithstanding the catchy idiom that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ (Read a piece on this meme, here) there are times when a caption, or a short story on the context of a photograph tells us more than what is depicted in the image. Sometimes, as with the photograph, below, it simply tells a story. This, then, is the first in a series of short takes on the back stories of pictures, and short takes on photographs.

Morning in an Istanbul Bar

I was sat deep inside a bar in Istanbul drinking coffee. The entire front of the bar was open to the street. A tram line ran along the front edge of the bar. It was a cold December morning. A man walked into the bar. He was bundled in a red parka. He sat down, ordered a beer and lit a cigarette. He took a sip of beer. A toke. A picture of Kemal Ataturk on the back wall of the bar flickered in pink fluorescent light. He took another sip. A toke. A tram sped by, barely two metres from the man. He did not flinch. Nobody flinched. There were three of us in the bar. The barman was arranging glasses on the counter. The man was lost in reverie. He took a sip. A toke. Kemal blinked in pink luminescence.