The title “Hero & Leander” comes from the age-old myth of the Maiden’s Tower, in which the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey separates two lovers. To be together, the beautiful Hero lights a candle in the tower to guide Leander’s treacherous swimming journey across the water. All summer, their tryst continues. Then, one stormy winter night, a fierce wind tragically extinguishes the beacon, leaving Leander disoriented. Eventually, he drowns, and his dead body washes up on the shore. When Hero discovers it, she throws herself from the top floor of her tower to her death.
In 2009, I worked and studied for a few months in Istanbul, Turkey—a vibrant city in constant flux. A place whose development, politics and social change are like specters hanging over the city. This juxtaposition, symbolized by “Hero & Leander,” was overwhelming and inescapable during my time in Istanbul.
On the one hand were my experiences and impressions; on the other hand I witnessed my Turkish friends’ imaginative handling of the increasingly restrictive society and politics. “Hero & Leander” is based on my subjective memories; memories and fragments that are so divergent it is impossible to put them into words. They are not moments of clarity, but rather flashbacks left open to interpretation. Every year new images are added to the series. The project is a never-ending work in progress, reflecting my shifting impressions of Istanbul and the evolving experiences of its inhabitants.
Editors’ note: Tschirner is a member of the LensCulture Network, a recent initiative we launched with the idea of offering talented, accomplished photographers a place to showcase their work on a global stage while also giving them a place to share, learn and engage with one another. The LensCulture Network began with a small number of hand-picked members, and we are very excited to watch it grow and evolve.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like these previous features: Real Indications, a series that experiments with the concept of portraiture; Sois Belle, luscious, surreal images that challenge the unrealistic standards of perfection set by fashion photography; and Villa Argentina, a photographer’s collaboration with her mother that explores our stereotypes about women and the domestic space.