If Istanbul is a living organism, then Istiklal Avenue in Beyoğlu is its heart. You find it pumping day and night, the street sees a flow of hundreds of thousands of people (up to 3 millions a day on weekends), all with their own thoughts, dreams and hopes.
I am part of that flow myself. Sometimes, I start walking against the stream in an attempt to capture that fugitive moment when I get close enough to another person’s bubble to discern his or her intimate thoughts and feelings.
When people walk in their bubble, there is something in their face. A kind of truth. We are true to ourselves only when we are not consciously posing for an external eye. Istiklal Avenue is one such place, not quite unlike William Burroughs’s Interzone, where identities coexist incommunicado and where people just walk past each other, oblivious of onlookers. I am an onlooker. But I am also one of them.
There is a level of unconsciousness in the faces and people I choose to photograph and, in a sense, this series is also a self-portrait. It could be that, with each year, I have come to be drawn towards faces which capture the spirit of Istanbul’s streets, which has seeped into me.
In Alberto Manguel’s review of Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, he suggests that each melancholic city has its own melancholy. “The saudade of Lisbon, the tristeza of Burgos, the mufa of Buenos Aires, the mestizia of Turin, the Traurigkeit of Vienna, the ennui of Alexandria, the ghostliness of Prague, the glumness of Glasgow, the dispiritedness of Boston share only on the surface a common sense of melancholy.” Manguel says that, according to Pamuk, Istanbul’s melancholy can be understood through the Turkish word hüzün, the Arabic root of which “denotes a feeling of deep spiritual loss but also a hopeful way of looking at life, a state of mind that is ultimately as life-affirming as it is negating.”
This project is a burgeoning one, still going in multiple directions. At the moment it is like a mashup; a source of inspiration for eventually finding my own way through the maze of the megapolis.
For more pictures.