Like every photographer, I love exotic locations. So when I had an opportunity to visit Istanbul, Turkey, I grabbed it. While the name alone conjures up romantic visions of age-old mystery and intrigue, modern-day Istanbul is a sprawling metropolis where contradictions – and treats for the eye – are around every corner.
I had just thirteen days – from January 26, 2013 to February 7, 2013 to see as much of Istanbul as possible and to shoot my photos. I explored the neighborhoods of Sultanahmet, Eminönü, Kabataş, Beşiktaş, Karaköy, Taksim, Fatih, Boğaziçi, Üsküdar, and even The Prince’s Islands, often walking for most of the day – and into the night.
Avoiding “postcard” shots, I instead concentrated on showing the people of Istanbul as I saw them. What are they like? They’re warm, considerate, intelligent, hard-working, and sincere. Even the pesky carpet salesmen and restaurant hawkers in the tourist areas are entertaining. But one experience in particular stands out.
One day, I took a ferry across the Bosphorus from Eminönü to Üsküdar – a less touristy neighborhood -- on the Asian side of Istanbul. As the ferry left, I could practically taste the photos that were waiting for me.
Once there, I walked down a cobblestone street with stores on either side. At the end of the street, I stopped to take a photo. As I was peering down the viewfinder of my vintage Rolleiflex, I realized a man’s head was moving close to my own. There was no reason for concern: he worked at a nearby store and just wanted to check out the view through my camera. We both laughed and shook hands. I was in good spirits -- clearly Üsküdar was the place to be.
I hadn’t traveled thirty yards before I spied an older woman in traditional garb standing next to a rustic wooden cart laden with produce that was bathed in perfect sunlight. As I prepared to take the shot, the woman started yelling at me in Turkish and causing a scene. Suddenly, everyone was staring at me. One second I felt like I could do no wrong -- the next like I could do no right. A nearby fruit vendor interceded on my behalf, pointing to his head and moving his finger in circles, to let everyone know the woman was crazy. The mood lightened, the old woman started to laugh, and the fruit vendor gave me a tangerine as an expression of goodwill. It was a moment I will not soon forget.
But I knew the old lady wasn’t crazy, at least not where I was concerned. She probably has cameras pointed at her on a daily basis and had every right to complain. But I am a photographer – and I am compelled to get my shots. That's what I do. These photos are a love letter and thank-you to the photographer-tolerant people of Istanbul.
For Peter & Bess
Cover Design by Barry Simon
©2013 Dan Wagner Photography. All Rights Reserved. danwagnerphotography.com No portion of this book may be published in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the author.