Ask any street photographer what their favourite city is and invariably one rolls off their tongue automatically. For many, that city is Istanbul. Ask why and they'll usually tell you it's the enticing mix of east and west, Europe and Asia. Alas, not for me. I really don't see the appeal. I just don't get it. To me it's too much like southern Europe with a mosque on every corner. Far better to have one or the other, rather than some hybrid.
I did however, enjoy the inner city poverty stricken neighbouring suburbs of Balat and Fener. Balat was originally a middle class Jewish area while Fener was the corresponding Greek area. Both, following the loss of nearly all the Jewish and Greek inhabitants in the 1950s, have spiralled downward into a mix of cheap rent, run-down apartments often lying next to derelict mansions whose legal owners are probably unaware they even exist. The result is a congenial shabbiness of ruination, higgledy piggledy wooden buildings with balconies seemingly in danger of imminent collapse. It's somewhat reminiscent of a badly decayed San Francisco, or the backstreets of Naples after a special offer on the most colourful paints at the local hardware store. All of these modes of architecture share the love with a plethora of satellite dishes.
There's also an quiet ambience to this area that is hard to find in the rest of noisy, hectic Istanbul. For a start, no doubt because of the poverty, the streets are relatively car-free and so much the quieter for it. There's none of the annoying buzz-saw sounds of scooters and mopeds which characterise places like Marrakech or Sicilian old towns. Children are able to play all day in the middle of the road and photographers don't have to dodge cars. And there are very few tourists. Those that do find their way here tend to have a purpose that involves having a decent camera around their neck. So there are no carpets or trinkets on sale. Hardly anyone speaks English, or any other modern European language for that matter. Everyone just ignores the weird guy with the camera. But attempt a few words of Turkish, buy a coffee or a pastry and people quickly become your friend and shake your hand. And genuinely, not just for your money.
It won't last though. Both areas have been designated UNESCO heritage sites and European Union money has started to arrive along with artist's studios and a handful of trendy Western European-style coffee shops, especially noticeable around the area bordering the Great Horn. In 20 years time no doubt it'll still be worth seeing, but not for the same reasons.
More of my images from these streets can be found here
Few children get to play soccer in a place like this, on a polished floor next to Al Alam, the royal palace. In old Muscat, this appeared to be the norm everyday after school. They did remove their shoes and socks first, though.
Morocco and Tunisia are the places to go to photograph interesting doors. Many buildings go to a great deal of trouble to offer a decorative place by which to enter or leave. Often, they're past their prime but in some ways that only adds to the charm in terms of the beauty of decay. Blue doors and walls are especially common in both countries, which is strange, because neither of their flags have any blue. Knowing what I know now, if I was transported back in a time machine I would make sure I had the sole rights to sell blue paint in both these places. I'd be a billionaire now. Or maybe not. Some buildings look like they only get a coat of paint once every 50 years.
I wasn't sure what to make of this wild west upstairs, art deco downstairs place. It's supposedly a lawyer's office but looks more like a shabby film set for the Chandler-esque office of a down-at-heel private dick. And it's pink, well, salmon coloured. Then again, it is San Francisco.
A traditional thatched cottage somewhere in the Cotswold region of England. I borrowed the title of this image from a poem by the late Cotswold poet Frank Mansell. I'm not generally a fan of sepia toning and this is one of my very few images where I've bothered with it because it does seem to occasionally work when emphasising age and tradition in iconic English scenes such as this. Even so, I sometimes look at this image and think it's overbaked. A short but popular essay written by myself and expanding on Mansell's views concerning the social and cultural impact of second home ownership can be found here
Detail from Museum of Modern Art, Barcelona. Captured with an old manual focus Sigma 35-70mm f/2.8-4 Zoom Master, a lens I tended to use more and more infrequently as the years went by (and nowadays, never). It's far from a popular lens and generally gets a bad press. However, initially I found it to be quite acceptable. My copy is capable of returning very sharp images even wide open, provided the light is strong. It particularly suits ISO 100 and 200 films with saturated colours though, surprisingly to me, others have said that their colours turned out on the dull side. But - and this is a big but - the barrel distortion is really poor. I'm not talking expected normal wide-angle noticeable here, but ridiculously bad, especially visible in architectural shots with straight lines, that I eventually grew tired of the necessary post-processing to correct the verticals and retired it for good. This is one of the last images I captured with the lens and it's been skewed in Photoshop.