The Istanbul Suburbs Of Balat & Fener
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 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 images from these streets can be found here
It's Latin for 'image of the day'. OK, images don't quite appear every day, but they are randomly selected images from my eclectic archive, so surely they're worth a look? They're even accompanied by a few words..... Depicting whatever from wherever until whenever since November 2019. A sister site to my more static portfolio: telltaleimages.com
"Everywhere I look, and most of the time I look, I see photographs."
Bert Hardy (1913-1995)
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All photographic images and original written content are copyright © Gary Hill 1984-2020. All rights reserved. Not in public domain.
To my mind, probably the finest documentary photographer
working in the UK today. Except he doesn't do this for a living; all the people whose lives he chronicles are known to him personally. Strikingly honest photography.
British documentary and news photographer who had a gift for capturing the gritty streets and no-frill lives of people living in the poorest districts of post-war Britain.
The respected Armenian-Turkish documentary and portrait photographer, who denied photography was an art form, travelled the world photographing celebrities. But his monochrome images depicting the working class people of mid-20th century Istanbul are the images that stand out for me.
British newspaper photographer who photographed many ordinary folk, but mainly famous people, especially those associated with the arts. For many years she used only a simple camera, an Olympus OM1, a standard 50mm lens and available light.
German professional photographer. It's not his commercial work that works for me but his street-honest personal photojournalism projects. 'Wee Muckers', his depictions of Belfast teenagers is downright saddening and inspiring.