Ara Güler : Lost Istanbul: 1950s and 60s
Ara Güler
Lost Istanbul: 1950s and 60s
Laura Serani, September 14, 2017
Photographic Portrait

"There is an absolutely great photographer who is ethnically Armenian, Ara Guller. He is called the live symbol of Istanbul . Of course, in Turkey no one mentions that he is an Armenian but they worship him and there is the cult of Ara Guller. He is very famous all over the world. He shot the portraits of many famous and great people but his most famous work is of Istanbul starting from middle of the last century. In 1960, he was the first to photograph the statutes of Gods – Armenian Gods – on the Mountain of Nemrut .


Ara Gûler_Portrait
Ara Gûler_Portrait


Istanbul, with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, stands at the intersection of a multitude of cultures, religions and languages. At once modern and traditional, it's a city that has fascinated and intrigued visitors for centuries. Ara Güler (born 1928) is a native "Stamboulite", who has been documenting his home city's cultural and domestic life since the 1940s. Initially a reporter for TimeLife, Paris Match and Stern, as well as Turkish dailies and magazines, he has been a member of Magnum Photos since meeting Marc Riboud and Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1961.

the end of the day, waiting for the dolmus on galata bridge, istanbul, 1958.
the end of the day, waiting for the dolmus on galata bridge, istanbul, 1958.


In the early years of the 1950s Turkey underwent profound political and transformation along with much of the Mediterranean. Ara Güler is the leading figure in a generation of Turkish photographers whose pictures raised awareness of their extraordinary country abroad. He bore witness to these changes, photographing Istanbul, Anatolia, the country's villages and magnificent archeological sites, assembing a rich and diverse body of work in which the uniting thread is the "human factor": attention, respect, a certain compassion, accompanying always the wish to bear witness to the conditions of live and work for everyday people.

1958 Galata Balıkçılar
1958 Galata Balıkçılar


His images of Istanbul similarly demonstrate his deep love of the city and its inhabitants. They are a portrait of a city in constant movement, day and night, crossed and recrossed by activity on land and water, in the labyrinth of small streets in the older quartiers, as well as on the major arteries of the town centre and Golden Horn. Ara Güler's Istanbul, melancholy and fog-shrouded, is illuminated not by the ostentatious remnants of the Ottoman Empire, but by streetlights lit at nightfall, the reflections from rainy pavements, the headlights of cars climbing the hill toward Beyoglu, and the lights from ferries along the Bosphorus.

1964 Salacak
1964 Salacak


This Istanbul is full of stories, of references to literature, painting and cinema, fields in which he has many friends. Güler says, "Our world was created by artists: I looked for them everywhere and took their photographs". Marvelous portraits of Chagall, Calder, Bill Brandt, Orson Welles, Elia Kazan, Fellini, Bertrand Russel, Yasar Kemal, Orhan Pamuk, are in his archives, revealing a further aspect of his work and talent. Güler also travelled throughout the world, from Kazakhstan to Papua New Guinea via Iran, India, Kenya.

1955 GALATA KÖPRÜSÜ VAPURLAR-EMİNÖNÜ VE HALİÇ
1955 GALATA KÖPRÜSÜ VAPURLAR-EMİNÖNÜ VE HALİÇ


Galata bridge, istanbul, 1957
Galata bridge, istanbul, 1957


trams at galatasaray square on a snowy day, beyoglu, istanbul, 1960
trams at galatasaray square on a snowy day, beyoglu, istanbul, 1960


Today, Ara Güler prefers to stay close to home. Affable and charming, he travels nowadays via the visitors who travel to see him from all over the globe. From the Ara Café, a café on the ground floor of his childhood home, he watches, amused as the world swirls around him, complete with a neverending stream of visitors, even as his fame and continues to grow.

Sirkeci, istanbul, 1956
Sirkeci, istanbul, 1956


www.mep-fr.org