Posts Tagged ‘Two Archives One Selection

10
Nov
19

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul’ at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Exhibition dates: 29th May – 17th November 2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

 

“A moment of experience”

This is the first of my catch up postings on exhibitions and art I saw during my European art and photographic research tour.

I know very little about the history of Turkish photography, and knew nothing of the work of “The eye of Istanbul”, Ara Güler, before I saw this exhibition.

Visually, Güler’s images are atmospheric renditions of people and place, grounding the representation of a city in the people who live and work there. They share a mainly male gaze, a patriarchal perspective on the treasured secrets of Istanbul, for this perspective is how the culture at that time (and possibly now?) was structured.

Güler’s visual histories of rare and subtle perception, “make visible the unseen, the unknown, and the forgotten.”1 They implicate “the urban discourse as a system in which culture enlists the medium (of photography) for representational tasks – nation building, identity construction, city scapes2,” highlighting photography’s ineradicable role for interpretation in the construction of knowledge and memory.3

As the press release states, Güler’s photographs have made a very significant contribution to the formation of the public’s collective imagination and memories of the city, but these memories of the city can only ever be reflections of concepts of identity that have developed across the social spectrum from within the self, within the culture, and within the political arena. One informs the other.

Güler’s cityscapes can only be a partial representation of what a city was and what it was moving to become. Paraprashing Eyelet Carmi when she talks of Sally Mann’s landscape photographs of the Deep South of America, we might say that the urban landscape, the photograph shows us, is never a neutral space. It is always historically constructed, politically used and emotionally complex.4 It is where national history is mediated by and intertwines with patriarchal assumptions, emotions, memories and personal experiences of everyday life. The personal is national and vice versa, for “the notion of home and place (national and personal alike) is inevitably unfixed, unstable and partial.”5

In an erudite and instructive piece of writing by Zeynep Uğur, “After Ara Güler: Capturing the Feeling of Loss in Modernizing Istanbul”, an extract of which is presented below, Uğur expertly places Güler’s photographs in the era of their composition, filling in the cultural background that surrounds their creation… depictions of the urban poor and their small routines – smoking, having a cup of tea, coffee, or an alcoholic drink – mainly men in their coffee shops and old fashioned bars, enacting traditions that have not changed for centuries, swept up in the modernisation of the city. “An emotional relation is established between people and the space they inhabit by enacting the space in the body and the body in the public sphere, hence humanizing the city and spatially contextualizing the people. As Jacques Lecoq announces in his pedagogy of movement in theater, only the body engaged in the work can feel, and thus reflect the evidence of the space. Güler’s urban poor portrayed in their work express the social reality with their bodies.”6

Where I disagree with Uğur is in her proposal that that these men, who are “waiting” instead of actively circulating or producing, proffer “a sense of disbelonging, being removed from the context, being out of place, a sense of invisibility, immobility and arbitrariness.”7 In other words, a sense of alienation from the existence and surroundings in which they find themselves (alienation of the individual in modernity is a trope that goes back to the beginnings of Romanticism). Uğur proposes that Güler’s photographs possess hüzün, “a feeling of melancholia, nostalgia and loss in a multilayered city where multiple spatialities and temporalities are superposed. Guler’s photography reflects this singularity of Istanbul, its vibe and the ambiance experienced when wandering in the city.”8

This idea of a singularity is a very modernist way of perceiving the world. In this singular world a unified self can be easily alienated from itself (through concepts such as social alienation, the alienated body (Sartre), the phenomenologists’ ‘body for others’, the objectified body, the social body), and objectified by the gaze and discourse of others.9 “… Marx expresses his conceptualization of the state of alienation as a loss of sensuous fulfilment, poorly replaced by a pride of possession, and a lack of self-consciousness and hence actualization of one’s own real desires and abilities.”10 Leading to the feelings of melancholia, nostalgia and loss allegedly seen in the work of Ara Güler.

Postmodernism on the other hand sees no decentering of the self from the centre to the periphery for there is no centre, no periphery, only fragmentation. Fredric Jameson wrote that, “in the postmodern world, the subject is not alienated but fragmented. He explained that the notion of alienation presumes a centralized, unitary self who could become lost to himself or herself. But if, as a postmodernist sees it, the self is decentred and multiple, the concept of alienation breaks down. All that is left is an anxiety of identity.”11 Through the fragmentation of the subject the “existential model of “authenticity” and “inauthenticity” is thus challenged.”12 When there is no centre, no periphery – where one cannot move to the centre because there is no unified centre – there can be no unified self and therefore no alienation or, alien nation. There is no unified self, no appeal to nostalgia and melancholy, for the people in the photographs just are: and this is my point here, Güler was a visual archivist who documented life as it exists, not how we now look back on those times through the misty eyes of loss.

All we are left with, then, is the fact that Güler’s photographs are “a moment of experience” which document change not loss. His photographs document people and places that are not being lost (for that proposes a unified perspective), but images which picture an anxiety (and presence) in their radical potential, in their political context, which is both then and now – the receiver (the subject) and the viewer recognising the categories of perception and appreciation as it applies to him or her.13 An experience, existence and anxiety that is both then and now. As Garry Winogrand has observed, “The photograph isn’t what was photographed. It’s something else. It’s a new fact.” Time after time, again and again.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,040

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Many thankx to the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All iPhone images © Marcus Bunyan and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art.

 

  1. Marianne Fulton, Eyes of Time: Photojournalism in America, Boston: Little, Brown, 1988, p. 107
  2. -scape. a combining form extracted from landscape, with the meaning “an extensive view, scenery,” or “a picture or representation” of such a view, as specified by the initial element: cityscape; moonscape
  3. Alison Winter, Memory: Fragments of a Modern History. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2012, p. 5
  4. Ayelet Carmi, “Sally Mann’s American vision of the land,” in Journal of Art Historiography Number 17 December 2017, p. 25
  5. Ibid., p. 13
  6. Zeynep Uğur, “After Ara Güler: Capturing the Feeling of Loss in Modernizing Istanbul,” on the Ajam Media Collective website 26 November 2018 [Online] Cited 22/10/2019
  7. Ibid.,
  8. Ibid.,
  9. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness. London: Methuen, 1969, pp. 339-351
  10. Harry Brod, “Pornography and the Alienation of Male Sexuality,” in Kimmel, Michael and Messner, Michael. Men’s Lives. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1989, p. 397
  11. Sherry Turkle, Life on The Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, p. 49
  12. Katarzyna Marciniak, “Introduction,” in Fredric Jameson. Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of late Capitalism. Duke University Press, 1991
  13. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. (trans. Richard Nice). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 207

 

 

‘I believe that photography is a form of magic by which a moment of experience is seized for transmission to future generations,’ Güler once said when asked to explain his art

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Ara Güler' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer
Ara Güler
Nd
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Istanbul Modern, in collaboration with the Ara Güler Museum, presents an exhibition of works by Ara Güler, “the man who writes history with his camera.” Titled “Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul” the exhibition follows the changes that have taken place in the city since the 1950s, and is open to public between May 29 – November 17, 2019.

A collaboration between Istanbul Modern and the Ara Güler Museum, the exhibition draws on the archives of both institutions to portray the changes that have taken place in the city from the mid-20th century to the present.

It also shows the influential role of Ara Güler’s photographs in the development of the public’s collective memory of Istanbul following these changes.

All signed by him

The exhibition brings together photographs from different periods that were signed by him, as well as various dark room prints, objects and ephemera from the archives of the Istanbul Modern Photography Collection and the Ara Güler Museum, and maps that situate the works in different neighbourhoods and angles. As a whole, the exhibition aims to address the relationship between photography and a photographer’s subjectivity through the works of Güler, who defines himself as a photojournalist and photojournalists as “people who write history with their cameras.”

When it comes to Istanbul, Ara Güler’s photographs have made a very significant contribution to the formation of the public’s collective imagination and memories of the city. The exhibition combines Ara Güler’s photographs, which invite viewers to look at them again and again, with archival materials in order to highlight Güler’s practice as well as his role in the creation of our perception of Istanbul.

Curated by Demet Yıldız, Photography Department Manager at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, with Umut Sülün, Manager of the Ara Güler Museum and Research Center, acting as consultant, the exhibition can be visited until November 17. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, there will be talks and various programs that focus on the city and collective memory.

 

About Ara Güler

As a youth he was greatly influenced by the cinema, and while in high school he worked at film studios in every branch of the industry. In 1951 Güler graduated from the Getronagan Armenian High School and began training in theatre and acting under Muhsin Ertugrul, aspiring to be either a director or a scriptwriter. At that time, some of his stories were published in literary magazines and Armenian newspapers. He continued his education in the Faculty of Economics at Istanbul University. However, on deciding to become a photojournalist, he left the university and completed his military service.

He began his journalism career with the newspaper Yeni İstanbul in 1950. He became a photojournalist for Time Life in 1956, and for Paris Match and Stern in 1958. Around the same time, the Magnum Agency started distributing his photographs internationally. One of his first features was on the ruins of Noah’s Ark, and more than one hundred of those photographs were distributed by Magnum. Also during these years he reported on Mount Nemrut, introducing it to the world. Another of his important features was on the rediscovery of the forgotten city of Aphrodisias, through which it likewise was revealed to the world.

From 1956 until 1961 Güler headed the photography section of Hayat magazine. In the 1961 edition of the British Journal of Photography Year Book, he was named one of the seven best photographers in the world. That same year he was accepted as a member of the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) and was its only Turkish member. In 1962 he received the Master of Leica award in Germany and was the subject of a special issue of the journal Camera, then the most important photography publication in the world. His works were exhibited at the “Man and His World” show in Canada in 1967; and at the Photokina Fair in Cologne in 1968. He took the photographs for Lord Kinross’s book about Hagia Sophia, published in 1971.

His photograph was on the cover of the English, French, and German editions of the book Picasso: Métamorphose et Unité, published by Skira on the occasion of Picasso’s ninetieth birthday. In 1974 Güler was invited to the United States, where he photographed many famous personalities; the images were later exhibited under the title Creative Americans in many cities around the world. Also in 1974 he made a documentary film called End of a Hero about the scrapping of the battle cruiser Yavuz. His photographs on art and art history were used in articles in Time-Life, Horizon, and Newsweek, and published around the world by Skira. Starting in 1989 Güler joined the project A Day in the Life of… and collaborated with some the world’s most famous photographers in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

In 1992 his photographs of the great architect Mimar Sinan’s works, which he had been working on for many years, were published under the title Sinan, Architect of Süleyman the Magnificent in France by Editions Arthaud, and in the United States and the UK by Thames & Hudson. In the same year his book Living in Turkey was published by Thames & Hudson in the United States and the UK, in Singapore by Archipelago under the title Turkish Style, and as Demeures Ottomanes de Turquie by Albin Michel in France.

In 2002, France decorated Güler with the Legion d’Honneur Officier des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2009 he received La Médaille de la Ville Paris from the city of Paris. He was awarded honorary doctorates by Yıldız Technical University in 2004, Mimar Sinan Fine Art University in 2013, and Boğaziçi University in 2014; the Presidential Culture and Arts Grand Award in 2005; the Award for Service to Culture and the Arts of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2008; and the Outstanding Service Award of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 2009. Also in 2009 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Lucie Foundation in the United States.

Hundreds of exhibitions all over the world have featured Güler’s work, and his images have been published in dozens of books. Güler interviewed and photographed numerous celebrities, from Bertrand Russell and Winston Churchill to Arnold Toynbee, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. As an outcome of the partnership created between Güler and Doğuş Group, two art institutions, Ara Güler Museum and Ara Güler Archives and Research Center, have opened their doors to visitors in Istanbul.

Ara Güler passed away on October 17, 2018, at the age of ninety.

Text from the Istanbul Modern Photography Gallery website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Taşlıtarla, Gaziosmanpaşa' 1959

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Taşlıtarla, Gaziosmanpaşa
1959
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Feriköy' (installation view) 1985

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Feriköy (installation view)
1985
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Galata' (installation view) 1950

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Galata (installation view)
1950
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Hallç, Vapuru'nda [In the Golden Horn Ferry]' (installation view) 1969

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Hallç, Vapuru’nda [In the Golden Horn Ferry] (installation view)
1969
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Persembe Pazan, Karaköy [Thursday Market, Karaköy]' (installation view) 1957

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Persembe Pazan, Karaköy [Thursday Market, Karaköy] (installation view)
1957
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Persembe Pazan, Karaköy [Thursday Market, Karaköy]' 1957

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Persembe Pazan, Karaköy [Thursday Market, Karaköy]
1957
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Hazzopulo Pasajl, Beyoglu [Hazzopulo Passage, Beyoglu]' (installation view) 1958

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Hazzopulo Pasajl, Beyoglu [Hazzopulo Passage, Beyoglu] (installation view)
1958
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Hazzopulo Pasajl, Beyoglu [Hazzopulo Passage, Beyoglu]' 1958

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Hazzopulo Pasajl, Beyoglu [Hazzopulo Passage, Beyoglu]
1958
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Eyüp Sultan Camii [Eyüp Sultan Mosque]' (installation view) 1965

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Eyüp Sultan Camii [Eyüp Sultan Mosque] (installation view)
1965
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Eyüp Sultan Camii [Eyüp Sultan Mosque]' 1965

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Eyüp Sultan Camii [Eyüp Sultan Mosque]
1965
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tarlabaşi' 1965 (installation view)

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tarlabaşi (installation view)
1965
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Sirkeci' (installation view) 1956

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Sirkeci (installation view)
1956
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Sirkeci' 1956

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Sirkeci
1956
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Cagaloglu Hamami' (installation view) 1965

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Cagaloglu Hamami (installation view)
1965
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii, Kadirga [Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, Kadirga]' (installation view) 1988

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii, Kadirga [Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, Kadirga] (installation view)
1988
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Kandilli [A Bosphorus passenger boat leaving the European shores of Istanbul for the Asian shore]' 1965

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Kandilli [A Bosphorus passenger boat leaving the European shores of Istanbul for the Asian shore]
1965
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Büyükdere' (installation view) 1972

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Büyükdere (installation view)
1972
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Büyükdere' 1972

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Büyükdere (installation view)
1972
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Kandilli' (installation view) 1985

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Kandilli (installation view)
1985
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Kapaliçarsi [The Grand Bazaar]' (installation view) 1972

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Kapaliçarsi [The Grand Bazaar] (installation view)
1972
Gelatin silver print

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Eminönü' (installation view) 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Eminönü (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Eminönü' 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Eminönü
1954
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Sehzadebaşı' 1958

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Sehzadebaşı
1958
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tahtakale' (installation view) 1966

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tahtakale (installation view)
1966
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Zeyrek' (installation view) 1974

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Zeyrek (installation view)
1974
Gelatin silver print

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Zeyrek' (installation view) 1960

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Zeyrek (installation view)
1960
Gelatin silver print

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Nightfall in the district of Zeyrek, Istanbul' 1960

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Nightfall in the district of Zeyrek, Istanbul
1960
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tophane' (installation view) 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tophane (installation view)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'A drunk man at a bar in Tophane' 1959

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
A drunk man at a bar in Tophane
1959
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tophane' (installation view) 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tophane [Atrium of a house] (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tophane [Atrium of a house]' 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tophane [Atrium of a house]
1954
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Galata' (installation view) 1955

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Galata (installation view)
1955
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

 

Extract from “After Ara Güler: Capturing the Feeling of Loss in Modernizing Istanbul”

Our focus is Güler’s portrayal of Istanbul in black and white in 1950s and 1960s, where Istanbul appears as a metropole “in progress”, or under construction. As described by the sociologist Nilüfer Göle, in the context of non-Western countries modernization, involves a cultural shift, a process of changing habitus, aesthetic norms, values, and lifestyles in the public sphere. The economic development of the country goes along with this social and cultural transformation. In 1950s and 60s Turkey, the construction of highways and railways connected the national periphery to the center. Istanbul received a mass wave of migration and expanded with slums during this improvised, unplanned urbanization process. The city became the scene where center and periphery, modern and traditional lifestyles encountered, confronted, and transformed one another and found ways to coexist. Urban poverty became an issue with this contrast becoming more and more visible in the city. …

Güler starts from the micro level, photographing people in their small routines: working, smoking, having a cup of tea, coffee, or an alcoholic drink. These people can be defined as the urban poor, not synchronized with the rapid urban growth and the modern ideal of progress. They are portrayed in the public sphere rather than in the intimacy of their private sphere. Their eyes, facial expressions, hands, and postures incarnates their poverty, highlighting modes of being that contrast sharply with the Westernizing public sphere they have entered. An emotional relation is established between people and the space they inhabit by enacting the space in the body and the body in the public sphere, hence humanizing the city and spatially contextualizing the people. As Jacques Lecoq announces in his pedagogy of movement in theater, only the body engaged in the work can feel, and thus reflect the evidence of the space. Güler’s urban poor portrayed in their work express the social reality with their bodies. …

People are also photographed in coffee shops and old fashioned bars where they socialize. Coffee shops have a particular significance in Istanbul’s urban culture, as they emerged as alternative public spheres to mosques in the 16th century. Coffee houses became popular by offering a venue for social occasions including leisure and political dialogue between men in the Ottoman world, thus creating a public culture, as noted by the historian Cemal Kafadar. As gender-mixed modern coffee houses gained popularity, traditional kahvehane became considered places of unproductive time pass activity. These alternative spaces, in turn, become a shelter for men alienated from the emerging modern public sphere and lifestyles. Güler’s men in coffee houses are “waiting”, as the opposite of circulating or producing that increasingly characterized the fast rhythm of the modern city.

In the absence of plans in the present and for the deferred future, a temporal slowing manifests itself. Hence, it points out to a suspension referring to the interruption of social ties, the feeling of being cut-off, a sense of disbelonging, being removed from the context, being out of place, a sense of invisibility, immobility and arbitrariness. These traits resonate with people waiting in the photographs, who seem slightly erased, detached from the space and time surrounding them. Güler’s choice of décor, the Ottoman ruins, emphasizes this detachment by fixing our regard on the remains of the past embodied in the present and the obsolete corners of the city, not “illuminated” yet by the city lights.

Perhaps this is the very reason why Güler’s Istanbul appears as the visual reflection of the Nobel winning author Orhan Pamuk’s description of the grayscale Istanbul, marked by the feeling of hüzün. Comparable to Baudelaire’s description of Paris Spleenhüzün is a feeling of melancholia, nostalgia and loss in a multilayered city where multiple spatialities and temporalities are superposed. Guler’s photography reflects this singularity of Istanbul, its vibe and the ambiance experienced when wandering in the city. Given that urban heritage is never patrimonialized and the events of the imperial and republican past haven’t been confronted, they haunt city’s present. …

Ara Güler might be referred as a Proustian in search of lost time, however his madeleine would be persons; the urban poor in the streets of Istanbul. His quest to seize what is being lost is not an interior process of romanticization, but comes from the external world. He always insisted that he is not an artist who proposes an interpretation of reality, but a visual archivist who documents life as it exists. In his photographs, it is the people who craft the urban sphere by sitting, waiting, settling, investing, appropriating it. Güler composes the cityscape of Istanbul by parting from the margins to join the center, the core of the city. This composition identifies the singularity of Istanbul, hüzün, a feeling of loss of firm ground, a loss of an emotional root, which opens up a wide range of emotions and experiences.

Zeynep Uğur. “After Ara Güler: Capturing the Feeling of Loss in Modernizing Istanbul,” on the Ajam Media Collective website 26 November 2018 [Online] Cited 22/10/2019. Reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

Zeynep Uğur Academia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Children playing in Tophane, Istanbul' 1986

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Children playing in Tophane, Istanbul
1986
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

 

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Asmalımescit Mahallesi, Meşrutiyet Caddesi, No: 99, Beyoğlu, 34430 İstanbul

Opening hours:
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Sunday: 11.00 am – 6.00 pm
Monday: Closed

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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