Tarlabaşı and me

Visual Sunday

Tarlabaşı at night

It was by chance that we lived in the neighbourhood of Tarlabaşı, in the last months of our stay, when we were students in Istanbul three years ago. People told us to never enter the district because it was deemed to be too dangerous.

Tarlabaşı is a historical neighbourhood which has hosted countless communities as the immigrated to, passed through, or settled in Turkey’s largest metropolis. The cultural diversity of the area is astonishing. Turks, Kurds, Roma, Armenians, Circassians, Lazes, migrants from the Middle East and Africa live altogether.

We were steeped in the stories of Tarlabaşı residents. We lived with the people for almost a year, soaking in all the narratives we could without making distinctions. We took pictures, but we never thought of making a film until we met Mustafa, a waste collector who lives in the neighbourhood. This photo series is a sum up of the atmosphere and people we met in Tarlabaşı that led us to film a documentary about Mustafa.

For over a year we have spent substantial production costs making the feature length documentary Tarlabaşı ve ben (Tarlabaşı and me). We are knee-deep in the editing process now and then we will soon tackle post-production tasks like sound editing, color correction, and other technical work before completing the film in December. The entire cost of the film production  is 25000 euros, and we will need to raise at least half of the sum before the end of November in order to complete the film. Our crowdfunding campaign can be found here.

Mustafa became one of Tarlabaşı’s residents a few years ago. He comes from Adana and has Kurdish origins. We met Mustafa in 2012 and we listened to his story. We knew that he had changed his life completely to move to the neighbourhood and get work as a waste picker, a job he sought out explicitly. As he believes, “a man should try everything.” Mustafa has the temperament and inquisitive mind of a philosopher, and for him, his current line of a work is like a form of therapy that gives him ample time for self-reflection.

The cultural diversity of the area is astonishing. Turks, Kurds, Roma, Armenians, Circassians, Lazes, migrants from the Middle East and Africa live altogether.

Every day metal walls are growing in Tarlabaşı, but it doesn’t stop people from continuing their activities or even from creating new ones. Many evictions have taken place in the last couple of years to pave the way for a redeveloped and posh Tarlabaşı. Despite a Council of State order to halt demolitions, construction work continues in the neighbourhood. Soon, all the current inhabitants of the area will be forced to leave.

Roma Tarlabaşı

At a Roma circumcision celebration in the heart of Tarlabaşı.

A child walking down the street in an area of Tarlabaşı inhabited primarily by Kurds.

A Turkish actor having his çay when wandering around Tarlabaşı.

A woman in front of her house in Tarlabaşı.

A Roma family in their apartment. The man just came back from working with burning copper in front of their house.

Many migrants from countries in Africa, particularly Nigeria, come to Turkey through Iran, crossing the mountains on the border. Tarlabaşı is one place where it is possible for people to share a room and find an informal job.

A man taking care of his animals in an area in the neighbourhood.

Tarlabaşı 2

A street vendor and customers walking past.

Tarlabaşı 1

Happy neighbours.

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