Istanbul from the Inside
I have never been to Turkey—well, this is not true—I have. But it doesn’t count because I just went from an Asian airport to Ataturk International Airport on the European side. That was in 2001 when I was coming “home” from Afghanistan. Twelve years later, when I was coming “home” from Syria in the beginning of January, I stopped in Istanbul for the first time. I stayed three weeks before I had to leave for Jordan to photograph Syrian refugees for Caritas, a Czech NGO.
I returned to Istanbul again in March, and stayed until beginning of April. Three times I changed my plane ticket to stay a little longer, and it was worth it. Istanbul deserves it because it is a great and interesting city. I didn’t have any themes to document, so I wandered the streets, away from typical tourist routes, with my analog camera, trying to capture the daily life of “Istanbullus”.
I walked everyday from the Czech Embassy where I was staying to different parts of Istanbul. I went to Fatih where immigrants from the region have settled, immigrants who practice a very conservative Islam faith. Here bearded men in baggy shalwar and women in long black dresses are very common.
I enjoyed picnics on weekends on long strips of green lawn along the Halic, (Golden Horn) shore. Traditional Turkish hospitality was felt at every corner, countless time I was offered a bite of something off of one of those grills and a cup of freshly brewed tea.
One day I was strolling on Tarlabasi Boulevard and I noticed on one side abandoned houses with crumbling walls, broken doors and windows. Not far from the boulevard on the other side is Istiklal Caddesi, one of the most famous avenues in Istanbul, full of shops, restaurants, bars and night clubs. Such a big contrast between these two streets so close to each other. I decided to go and see what is behind these empty houses, in this part of Istanbul called Tarlabasi.
I walked through the narrow streets where I met Kurds who moved from eastern Turkey into Tarlabasi in the 1990s. I sat outside with Roma women and watched the world go by. I spoke with migrants from neighbouring countries and from Africa. I fell in love with this place. I fell in love with Istanbul, with its people, and with a city where religious history remains multicultural.