942) ARA GULER: Visual Chronicler of Our Age & Turkey's Passionate Interpreter to the World

Ara Güler - Photographer

Not only is Ara Guler, "The Istanbul Photographer", one of the masters of Turkish photography but also he carries a special place in the history of world photography. He is the most important representative of creative photography in international environments.

He was born in Istanbul in 1928. His father owned a pharmacy on Istiklal Caddesi, Beyoğlu and had a wide circle of friends from the art world of the period. Ara Güler's early contact with Istanbul's art world motivated him to embark on a career in cinema. At first he worked in film studios and attended drama courses taught by Muhsin Ertoğrul, the founder of modern Turkish theater. Then he abandoned cinema in favor of journalism, joining the staff of the Yeni Istanbul newspaper in 1950 while attending university at the same time. . .

In 1958 he did his first overseas commissions for Time-Life, Paris Match and Stern. He became the head of the photo section of Hayat Magazine in 1961 and, upon meeting Henri Cartier Bresnon, he joined the Paris Magnum Agency. He was listed among the world's seven best photographers in English Photography Annual Anthology published in Britain.

In the same year he was accepted to ASMP (American Magazine Photographers Association), being the only Turkish member. In 1962 he was awarded the title of Master of Leica, which is very rarely given to photographers. Camera Magazine of Switzerland published a special issue for Ara Güler. His photographs were exhibited in the New York Museum of Modern Art "10 Masters of Color Photography" and at Fotokina Fair in Cologne. His photo album "Türkei" was published in Germany in 1970. His photos on art and art history were used in Time-Life, Horizon and Newsweek magazines and Skira Publishing of Switzerland.

Ara Güler traveled to all corners of the world which are difficult to reach and to such countries as Iran, Kenya, Kazakhstan, New Guinea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Borneo and all parts of Turkey. He held photographic interviews with such famous personalities as Winston Churchill, Indira Gandhi, John Berger, Bertrand Russel, Bill Brandt, Alfred Hitchcock, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

Since then, he has received countless awards, his work has been the subject of exhibitions and special supplements, and the world's most famous publishers have featured his photographs.

He also produced a film entitled "The End of the Hero" in 1975, based on a fictional account of the dismantling of the Yavuz Battleship.

"Ara Güler's Creative Americans", "Ara Güler: Photographs", "Ara Güler's Movie Directors", "Sinan: Architect of Süleyman the Magnificent", and "Living in Turkey" are among the books of Güler's works published in France, the USA, England and Singapore. He also has a 800-piece slide archive.

Most of these photographs are in museums and libraries abroad such as the Paris National Library, the George Eastman Museum, Nebraska University Sheldon Collection, Köln Museum Ludwig, and Das Imaginare Photo Museum.

Ara Güler lives in Istanbul and continues to take photographs.

Ara Guler was born in Istanbul in 1928. The most important living representative of creative photography in Turkey today, he has a well-established international reputation. He began a career in journalism with the newspaper Yeni Istanbul in 1950. He became a photojournalist for Time-Life in 1956 and for Paris Match and Stern in 1958. Around the same time, he joined the Magnum Agency. In the British Journal of Photography Year Book published in the UK in 1968, Guler was named one of the seven best photographers in the world. In 1962, he received the 'Master of Leica' award in Germany. Guler has held hundreds of exhibitions of his work all over the world. He has also interviewed and photographed numerous celebrities ranging from Bertrand Russel and Winston Churchill to Arnold Toynbee, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

Many examples of Ara Guler's photographic work are to be found in institutions such as the French National Library in Paris and the Sheldon Collection at Nebraska University as well as in private collections in Boston, Chicago and New York. His photographs are also on display at the Ludwig Museum and at Das Imaginaere Photo-Museum, both in Cologne. Ara Guler's most recent exhibition '77 years of Ara Guler' was held at Fotografevi on the occasion of his 77th birthday.

Although well know in the West, the name of Ara Guler is hardly familiar to most of Russian audience. This is the first time that his works will be shown in Russia. Exhibitions will be held in St.-Petersburg and after that in Moscow with support of Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Ara Guler insists he is not an 'artist'; he refers to himself as a 'photojournalist' instead. Is it out of modesty? I tend to think not.

The power of photography derives from its prevalence and practicality - no wonder then that photography has been termed the art form of the age. Media photography possesses both qualities in full measure. Its product exists primarily in order to be reproduced and conveyed to the masses. With the function of media photography being so, the photographer becomes a chronicler of sorts. And this would explain why Ara Guler sometimes talks of 'doing a more important job', one that he defines as 'recording history'.

What marks him out from other media photographers? If his work is recognizable at first glance, what are its hallmarks? The answer is in his aesthetic, the sensitivity that enables him to capture exhaustively the essence of the scene before him. In a word, his signature style reflects powerful photographic insight. Ara Guler has become synonymous with a particular style in Turkey since the mid 1950's.

To my way of thinking, it is Ara Guler's style which wins him kudos both at home and overseas. At various points in time, he has gathered the extraordinary products of his lifetime career and exhibited them as an ensemble. In so doing, he has served as a model for younger generations. Along with this, many of his photographs have been published in book form. As such, he is poised to do more than inspire his contemporaries, his impact will surely endure into the future. And this represents an invaluable contribution towards to the development of Turkey's photographic heritage.

ARA GULER: Visual chronicler of our age


One of the foremost figures of international creative photography, Ara Guler, declares that photography is more important than art and defines it as "the visual chronicling of contemporary history."

I went to see the photographer Ara Guler at his studio in Galatasaray. On the walls were portrait photos by Ara Guler of some of the most famous names in the world, bearing the signature of subjects who include Picasso , Salvador Dali and Ismet Inonu.

On another wall was a facsimile print of a drawing given to Ara Guler by Picasso. "I keep the original elsewhere," he explained. "It is extremely valuable. I have been offered thousands of dollars for it." Ara Guler's archive in the section of the studio he uses as a darkroom contains thousands of negatives and transparencies in boxes. Classified according to country, region and subject, labels testify to a life spent travelling throughut the world: Iran, Kenya, Kazakhstan, New Guinea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Borneo, to name but a few. One box bears the tantalising label "Head Hunters", and many others record journeys into regions which remain remote and inaccessible even today.

Still other boxes belong to famous statesmen and artists from all around the world, and there is an exhaustive collection covering virtually every region, monument and palace of Turkey. Each box contains hundreds of frames bearing witness to events and life.

How many negatives and transparencies are there altogether in the archive, I wondered? "I reckon around eight hundred thousand, but it is impossible to count them all," explained Guler. Then there are the photographs he has sent to publcations he works for, such as Time, Life, Paris Match, and Stern, not to mention those distributed around the world by Magnum Agency. Guler cannot keep track of which magazines have published which photographs.

"I cannot remember whether a magazine in Brazil whose name I have never heard of has used my photograph, for instance. It is impossible."

Ara Guler was born in Istanbul in 1928. His father owned a pharmacy on Istiklal Caddesi and his wide circle of friends from the art world of the period included Muhsin Ertugrul, founder of modern theatre in Turkey, as well as budding business tycoons such as Vehbi Koc, whose office was just down the street.

His early acquaintance with Istanbul's art world motivated Ara Guler to embark on a career in cinema.

At first he worked in film studios and attended Muhsin Ertugrul's drama courses.

Before long, however, he abandoned cinema in favour of journalism, joining the staff of Yeni Istanbul newspaper in 1950, and later transferring to the famous Hayat magazine.

In 1958 he did his first overseas commissions for Paris Match and Stern, and in 1961 was listed among the world's seven best photographers in a photography annual published in Britain.

Since then he has received countless awards, his work has been the subject of exhibitions and special supplements, and the world's most famous publishers have featured his photographs.

In 1968 his photographs were on display at the Modern Art Exhibition in New York, and in 1975 he made a brief return to cinema with a surrealistic 16 mm film entitled "End of a Hero", about the dismantling of the "Yavuz" warship. His photographs have ilustrated over twenty books, including "Ara Guler's Creative Americans", "Ara Guler, Photographs", Ara Guler's Film Makers", "Sinan, Architect of Suleyman the Magnificent", and "Living in Turkey".

The conversation then turned to the photograph itself, and I asked him for his views on effects produced by computers, and images obtained by developing several films one on top of the other.

Guler was dismissive: "These are technical devices. I do not regard them as photographs.

Photography is real. Photography captures a facet from our lives, and a good photograph must have something to say. When a photograph conveys an emotion, a thought, then it is a real photograph."

So what about the relationshp between art and photography? What kind of an art is photography? Ara Guler has a controversial answer: "photography is not an art. It is more important than art.

We photographers are chroniclers who record the visual history of our age. Look at 19th century photographs. They give us the truest glimpse of that century.

Historians are bound to incorporate a degree of emotion and imagination into their writing, but photograps show the truth.

That is why they are greater than art. Photographs are living history. Art is not real , it is contrived, fictitious.

Hamlet dies on the stage every night Why? Because theatre is fictitious. Photography is the truth. If Hamlet dies I can only photograph him at the moment of death.

Darkroom tricks are not for me. I could take four pictures and play around with them as much as I liked, creating collages. But then the results would not have anything to do with reality. Photography is realty above all else."

So what does Ara Guler think of the phrase, "photographic artist"?

"How can a photographer be an artist?

The photographer is a man in pursuit of the truth." At that cue we began to discuss the truth which Ara Guler has gone in pursuit of.

His fascinating anecdotes often beat any adventure film for excitement:; how his car was surrounded by 24 lions on the way to photograph the Masai, one of Africa's most warlike tribes; his journey through virgin forest to find the head hunters of Borneo, starting in four-wheel drive vehicles and continuing by canoe when the track ran out; a story of armed guards, crocodiles, snakes, and his two rusty but precious Leica cameras.

At this point I interrupted him to ask how many cameras he had altogether.

"Forty or forty-one," Ara Guler replied. "That is not so many, if you reckon I have been taking photographs for forty years- one a year.

Some of them are designed specially for particular functions such as underwater photography, or capturing the fine detail of historical document in museums."

Some of them are old models, and on the wall of the darkroom hang the huge flash lights as big as saucepan lids which he used to use in the early years.

Ara Guler's favourite part of the world is the Pacific. He blames the western world for all the afflictions of the world today, and describes the people of the Far East as "warmhearted". Of Turkey, his home, Ara Guler comments favourably, too:

"We are a good country. Our people know how to cry." What is it that sends Ara Guler in search of adventure and even danger, to Africa and Central Asia, and to the remoted corners of New Guinea and Borneo? Places where attack from wild animals, malaria, and other risks are ever present. "I feel like an explorer.

You must discover these places for yourself. That is the first objective of the journalist, to be today's Christopher Columbus.

I think that the true journalist is the reporter, who goes and finds the people he write about and lives with them.

He has to discover them for himself, and share ther expeirences. That is the kind of journalism which I do."


Turkey's Passionate Interpreter to the World

By Stephen KINZER

This is the Turkey of the photographer Ara Güler: A confused child peers from behind decaying tombstones inscribed with or nate Arabic script. Laborers unload hulking freighters. Couples walk down foggy streets lined with old wooden houses. Men gaze out over their drinks or contemplate rugged landscapes. Autos jam broad avenues. Horses pull carts up snowy hillsides. And Muslim worshipers bow in prayer by the hundreds.

One of the few Turks to have reached an internationally acknowledged pinnacle of creative achievement, Mr. Guler, 69, is driven by a passion for his native land and especially for Istanbul, where he has lived all his life. The rich archive he has produced has made him one of the few Turks with an international reputation.

His photographs hang in many private collections and museums, including the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and the George Eastman House in Rochester. Last month he was in Washington to open an exhibition of 43 of his Istanbul pictures at Cities, a restaurant in the Adams-Morgan section whose decor represents a different world metropolis every six months. The photographs will be on view until fall.

Because Ara Güler's photographs penetrate so far below the city's surface, they convey a deeper sense of the true Istanbul than most visitors can absorb. They are not sentimental, often starkly so, but still full of emotion. Sometimes their constrasts seem to reflect Mr. Güler's disgust with a country that he believes has thrown away much of its cultural richness. Always, however, they are infused with a poignancy that has made their creator the leading graphic interpreter of this city and this country.

"Ara Güler is a great creative artist" Turkey's most prominent living writer, Ya?ar Kemal, wrote in a recent tribute: "He delves deeply into both nature and man. The picture he captures in a single moment is the result of years of research. For years perhaps he carried within him a certain face, a certain smile, a certail expression of pain or sadness. And then, when the time is ripe, he presses the button. Mr. Kemal compares Mr. Güler's talents to those of Cezanne, Turner and Gauguin. They are rich in flowing patterns, and he acknowledges having learned his technique through years of studying great painters. But in an interview at his cluttered studio in downtown Istanbul, he insisted that he is merely a "press photographer" (He works regularly for major magazines, including Time, Paris Match and Stern). "If it's art, it's art," he said with a shrug. "If it's not, it's not. Other people will decide that 100 years from now. Photography looks like art, but art has to have some kind of depth. Painting is art. Music is art. Who is an artist, Yehudi Menuhin or Vivaldi? One is only an interpreter. Photography is interpretation. I can stand for an hour in front of a picture by Ansel Adams or Eugene Smith or Cartier-Bresson. You can see that they have a visual education. But that does not make them artists. I hate the idea of becoming an artist. My job is to travel and record what I see."

"Art is something important", he continued. "But the history of humanity is more important, and that is what press photographers record. We are the eyes of the world. We see on behalf of other people. We collect the visual history of today's earth. To me, visual history is more important than art. The function of photography is to leave documentation for coming centuries."

Mr. Güler spends much of his time seeking to document what he calls "the lost Istanbul," which he believes is not appreciated or even known to today's young people.

"What they know is the junk of Istanbul," he said. "The poetic, romantic, esthetic aspect of the city is lost. I understand the smell of Istanbul. Istanbul became my subject because I was born here, grew up here and know this place intimately.But the great culture I knew is gone." It is a truism that everything everywhere was better in the old days, but Mr. Güler's lament for Istabul's is shared by almost everyone of his generation here.

"The real population of Istanbul is one million," he asserted. "Today, 13 million people live here. We have been overrun by villagers from Anatolia who don't understand the poetry or the romance of Istanbul. They don't even know the great pleasures of civilization, like how to eat well. They came, and the Greeks, Armenians and Jews, who became rich here and made this city so wonderful, left for various reasons. This is how we lost what we had for 400 years." Not everyone remaining in Istanbul is an Anatolian peasant or even an ethnic Turk, however, Mr. Güler himself is of Armenian ancestry, though he says he has always considered himself "just a Turkish person like any Ahmet or Mehmet." Mr. Güler dreamed of becoming a film director, but his father gave him a 35-milimeter camera when he was a child, and he became obsessed with it. In 1948 he got his first job, as a photographer for an Istanbul newspaper, and since then he has made his living taking pictures.

For a while his work appeared regularly in the Istanbul daily newspaper Hürriyet, and in 1961 a British magazine, Photography Annual, named him one of the world's seven greatest photographers.

Yet today his pictures are rarely published in Turkish newspapers. "A shame for the Turkish press," lamented one of his younger colleagues, Burhan Özbilici, an Associated Press photographer based in Ankara.

In recent years Mr. Guler has published three lavish books. One is a survey of the work of the great 16th-century Ottoman architect Sinan, who remains perhaps the most influential designer in the Muslim world. The other two books, both of which appeared in 1995, are "All the World in Their Faces," an vivid portrait of Anatolia, and "Vanished Colors," a ode to Istanbul and the Constantinople that lies beneath it. They will be for sale at Cities.

In his studio, amid portraits of figures ranging from Churchill and Bertrand Russell to Picasso and Tennessee Williams, Mr. Güler is hoarding 615 sides for what he hopes will be his next and most ambitious book. They make up a collection of brilliant color pictures he has taken during a lifetime of world travel, with large selections from India, Bangladesh, Myanmar the Philippines, Kenya, Senegal and other countries that he describes as "paradise for photographers." An Istanbul printer has told him, however, that it will cost at least $ 150,000 to produce the book.

"What publisher will pay that much for a book that will be so expensive to buy that, people will only look at in bookstores for half an hour and then put it back on the shelf and leave". Otherwise who knows? But the pictures will always exist. My pictures are what I leave to the world."

The New York Times

April 13,1997

Ara Güler, who is the most important representative of creative photography in international circles, describes photography as "a more important activity than art.

Travelling to the corners of the world which are difficult to reach, Güler went to such countries as Iran, Kenya, Kazakhstan, New Guinea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Borneo and all parts of Turkey.

Ara Güler was born in Istanbul in 1928. His father was a chemist and he had friends from the world of the arts, including the theatre and also writers, among whom was the founder of the theatre in Turkey, Muhsin Ertuğrul. Growing up in such an environment, Güler started to work in film studios in Istanbul and also attended theatre courses given by Muhsin Ertuğrul. In 1950 he started his career in journalism at the "Yeni Istanbul" newspaper.

Since that day, he has been known as one of the "seven best photographers in the world". He was listed as such in the Photography Annual in Britain in 1961. Ara Güler's photographs were exhibited at the New York Modern Arts Exhibition in 1968. He also produced a film entitled, "The End of the Hero" based on fiction which was about the dismantling of the Yavuz Battleship. Some special issues of books have been printed about his works and exhibitions have been held and awards have been given to him. Today, most of the important printing houses in the world have Güler's photographs on their walls.

"Ara Güler's Creative Americans", "Ara Güler: Photographs", "Ara Güler's Movie Directors", "Sinan: Architect of Süleyman the Magnificiant", and "Living in Turkey" are among the books comprising Güler's studies. He also has a 800-piece dia-positive archive.

Regarding photography, Ara Güler said: "Photography is something real. It is a moment in our lives and it should "say" something. A photograph is more important than the arts. We, photographers, are also historians who write the visual history of the century we are living in. When you glance at 19th century photographs, you learn about the century in the most "realistic", way. While writing history, historians add some feelings and imagination into their writings. Whereas, a photograph only depicts reality. A photograph is living history. The arts are not real but are false. Hamlet dies on the theatre stage every night. Why? Because theatre is false. However, when Hamlet dies, I would take his photograph only once; at the moment of his death. A photograph is nothing other than reality."

He pointed out further that there was not an "artist-photographer" but that a photographer was a person who pursues reality. Some of his best photographs are his portraits. There are a lot of portraits in his photographs. Ara Güler describes himself as follows: "I feel as if I were an explorer. The primary aim of a journalist should be to explore new places by travelling. That is to say he or she should be today's Christopher Columbus."

Interview with Ara Güler

The following is the interview with famous Turkish photographer Ara Güler published in December 2002 issue of the Turkishtime.

What is it that's important about me
The walls are covered with signed autographs of people whom we see the pictures of in encyclopedias, books up to the ceiling, boxes on the floor; all are full of "historic works". Whether we would call Ara Güler a photograph artist or a photo-journalist, that part is complicated, but it is certain that the more than half a century he spent behind the visor, accredits him as one of the best in the world in his line of work. The "100 Faces from Turkish literature" exhibition to be open at Yapı Kredi Cultural Center until December 28 is a pretext… In fear of being disrespectful or that something will happen that will enrage him, we asked our questions as if making "kamikaze" dives; he embarrassed us all.

Do you like being interviewed?
Are we on record? Actually, I don't like it much because throughout my life I've interviewed others, now you're cross-examining me. Anyway…

Did you develop methods of smoothing the situation when the person against you was peevish during the interview?
I don't interview people I dislike anyway; I don't care. While working at the newspaper, I'd said, "I don't like that guy at all, give me someone else". If he's an important person, if I know his books, works and so on, then of course I ask questions accordingly. Actually, I don't ask questions, I chat.

Such legends go around about your churlishness at interviews that we were a little uptight before we came…
Nope, everyone says that but don't be uptight. The reason I'm fed up with it is because it's too much. For example, there have been 20 interviews since the latest exhibition. (The photographer starts to work. While she's taking photographs, Ara Güler gets caught up with the short blouse on her.) These young ones now always have their waists bare. You will catch a cold, aren't you cold! You go after them for the sake of fashion. See, designers are mostly men and they think, "how do we ridicule women". I look at fashion shows when they're on TV, if my wife puts on those outfits, no way…By the way, I've done interviews for many fashion magazines at the time, Calvin Klein and all. But 20 years ago there was no such farce. …What were we saying?

In almost all interviews with you until now, there is always the debate of photojournalism and art. Despite your preference to define yourself as a photojournalist, why do people insist on not accepting it and try to convince that you are an artist? Is photojournalism something very bad or is art very exalted?
First, the two are very different, but photojournalism has no relation with art. Photography may be an art but I don't believe that, either. There are a group of guys now, whichever one resembles Beethoven, that's the artist. How can such a trifling become an artist? The easiest thing is to be an artist because there is no diploma for it. Come and be a doctor, a philosopher, an atomic physicist, if you can. Artists! I don't like artists. Now that I've said that, I'm confusing you.

Do people recognize and approach you when you're walking on the street?
They do, I'm annoyed with this. Young people recognize but do you know where they recognize me from? What was that, 0522 or what, I went out on that commercial, they know me from there. Not because of the intellectualism of those who recognize me, besides I'm not an intellectual, either. There are millions of journalists like me in the world. You overrate me; I'm not anything. This was my duty. If you are a wall mason, it is already your duty to paint the wall well.

But you haven't only taken the photographs of people that the editorial sent you to interview; you've also done photojournalism for yourself…
They are important men, artists, too; Picasso, Chagall, Dali…Art is a great thing, there is no art with "ooh, how nice" or with small excitements. (To the photographer) Which focus do you use, how will you capture me with that…

What do you think substituted the photograph before it was invented?
Pictures. In old newspapers, illustration artists used to draw pictures, photographs couldn't be printed back then, there were hyphen half tones. When dotted half-tones came out, then photographs began to be printed on newspapers. Now look, Goya has drawn King Carlos, hasn't he; if he hadn't we wouldn't have known the face of Carlos. But he drew the guy the way he wanted; maybe he said "damn" and made him ugly, how are we to know? The photograph shows the truth, that's why it isn't art.

John Berger whom you photographed gave a more philosophical reply; he said "memory"...
He is a friend of mine; did he say memory? How so, how many people will it hold in memory? Let's say that a guy named Igor saw King Carlos, what's going to happen when he dies? Everyone drew Jesus, are any of those alike? The Muslims were clever, they forbade drawing pictures of Muhammad and were saved from trouble.

Good watch repairers come out among those with long fingers, it takes something else to be a good wall mason. What would make a good photographer?
There's no such thing; the photographer mustn't be exaggerated. Einstein is no artist but is 10 times more important than an artist. Art makes people happy when they are alive, broadens their horizons; makes it easier to understand some things, but the Turkish people understand half of everything anyway, that's something else.

Don't you feel important at all?
Not at all, what is it that's important about me. There's Picasso who, for me, counts for three thousand presidents.

How many presidents does your latest exhibition "100 Faces in Our Literature" make?
There are of course very important ones amongst them; most are those who did their duties. What's important is to be important for the whole civilization. Was Picasso only important during his own period of time? Also, we chose 100 faces for this exhibition so that it would sound good; I've got 300 faces from Turkish literature. Likewise, there are people I didn't photograph because of my dumbness. For example, Sevgi Soysal, Yahya Kemal, Cahit Sıtkı. With some, it wasn't the right time, but Yahya Kemal was a man that I saw all the time at Park hotel, I talked with and drank with him. You have to take their pictures whoever they are. A French journalist girl came for this exhibition, she is the journalist for Le Monde, I took her to the exhibition and she couldn't recognize a single one. I showed her Aziz Nesin, no response, she hasn't even heard of Nazım Hikmet.

Isn't it her fault as well if she didn't hear any of them?
You see, that's Europe. Doesn't learn because it doesn't care about you, it makes its own man very important. The English write all histories. The enormous Ottoman Empire is an empire that ruled for seven hundred years, in the foreign edition of the Britannica encyclopedia, it is only 16 pages. The Holy Roman Empire, 80-100 pages. They are that kind of a race, what am I to say.

When you worked for foreign newspapers, were you incensed about the content or language of the news about Turkey?
I used to brush them off and snubbed them; they were scared of me. (The phone rings. A public relations lady who wants to invite Ara Güler somewhere, starts by saying "May I speak to Ms Güler?" Somehow, Mr. Güler does not give it away and laughs a lot, he then hangs up.) Where on earth did they find her…What was I saying? I did a Mimar Sinan book, they don't know Mimar Sinan. Is there a single name that Europe can show against Mimar Sinan? The architect of the Twin towers? He is Minoru Yamasaki, I spent four days with him, I did an interview, I took pictures of the towers from a helicopter when they were first built.

Is Turkey very distant from the West?
For the Europeans, Istanbul is the beginning of the east and the end of Europe. Don't you bother; Turkey is nonetheless European.

Geographically or mentally?
The wives, mothers, etc. of Ottoman sultans were all foreign. When the child is born, he becomes half European. Don't forget that it was our land until Vienna. How could Europe forget this, who is Europe to forget it? Europe is the center that sets the world at loggerheads. So what, if I enter that union! I don't like Europe; all imperialist ideas, all assimilations; historically, taking away the gold of Incas, going off to robberies on ships, were all the work of the Europeans. Now are we to take off our hats to these countries because they have got rich? Liechtenstein, for instance, there are these tiny countries in Europe. For one thing, it hurts my pride to be with them. Their whole population is one quarter of the Be_ikta_ town, for heaven's sake! All right, it's beneficial to enter the union, let us enter it, but it shouldn't be exaggerated this much.

Why do you think that we exaggerate it this much, why do we burst to ascribe ourselves as European?
It is to our interest, that's what our politicians think; I don't think that they are very enthusiastic. It's as though Europeans are speaking with the cannibal of Yemen, we have such cultured people that would thrash all of them; the rest is humbug. We are 70 million people, what things these 70 million can do.

But Germany is very frightened of us Turks; in five generations, the German President may be Turkish. If all Turks in Germany withdraw their money from the banks at the same time, Wednesday at 9:45, the German economy will collapse. Hence, they want us to always remain backward. Ok, now I'm bored. So I wasn't as bad as you feared, was I?

It's 1958. The Kemer Dam was to open. It is a place between Nazilli and Denizli, between the mountains. I had to go there and take photographs for the center page of the Hayat Magazine. I went to Aydın. The governor knew me and he gave me a car with a driver. When we got to the dam, the light was reverse. I climbed up the mountain and waited for the light to turn back. I was on the hill; couldn't get down and climb up again. I stayed there until the evening. Hours later, when I got back the driver began to grumble, "Sir, I'm finished, done for, my wife is waiting". Anyway, I said, "I'm finished, let's go". He knew a shortcut so we set out on the road. We got lost. At that time, there were no paved roads in Anatolia. Night fell, it was all dark; we took the surroundings as monsters and were terrified. Where have we come to, where are we going? We are squabbling all the time, he's swearing at me and I at him. No mobile phones back then. I said to him, "Let's stop at a place for tonight, we will continue in the daytime". We found a coffee house; everyone was asleep but there were two men inside. We told them, "this is our situation, we need a place to stay, where is the village official?"

There were kerosene lamps lit up inside; my eyes got used to it slowly. I saw that they were playing dominos in a corner. But they were playing the dominos on Roman column heads. I saw another column at another corner… Since we had the black plated car of the city, they instantly found a place for us and we went to bed. In the morning, I woke up and said, "There's something going on here". I started to go around. All the kids surrounded me saying, "there is some here; here, too". I toured around and saw that the guys crushed grapes inside tombs; the place that's the hippodrome today was a field, they reaped it with a sickle. They lived both in the Republican era and in the Roman era. I did my interview at once. A theatre house had not been opened back then, the column heads were visible. Anyway, we turned, again arguing with the driver. I came to Istanbul. The pictures of the dam were printed in the Hayat Magazine, but I told them about the other interview and said that it was very interesting. They told me, "How come you went and took pictures of stones". This was the editorial direct! When they didn't publish it in the magazine, what was I to do, I asked Sabahattin Eyüboğlu. I learned all about it. At the time, I was working for a newspaper in England. I told them, they researched it and it came out that there was probably the old Roman city, Aphrodisias. Of course, our newspapers even forgot that I had photographed it; they used the feature cutting it out from the English newspaper. After some time, a telegraph came from the Horizon magazine in America; it was a very big magazine. "We saw your interview, we want to print it, too. We set about 10 pages, send us any colored photos you have." I had no colored photos because I had used all my colored films at the dam, and had taken black and white shots there. I sent a reply saying, "I will send them in a week", then sallied forth straight to Aydın. I asked the same driver of the governor. I told the guy, "Come on, you will be lost again, take me to the same coffee house". We found it, this time I took many very professional photos. There was an excavation in 1810, then everyone forgot about it…

Ara Guler, one of the most distinguished and internationally renowned of creative photographers, was born in Istanbul in 1928. While still at Lycee he took up various types of work in the film studios, while at the same time following theatre courses run by Muhsin Ertugrul with the ambition to be a stage director or a playwright. He began his journalistic career in 1950 on the Yeni Istanbul newspaper while still a student at the Faculty of Economics. On completing his military service he began work on the Hayat magazine, where he was employed until 1961 as head of the photographic department. When Time-Life opened an office in Turkey, Ara Guler was engaged as correspondent for the Near East. This was followed by his employment as Near East photographic reporter for Paris-Match and Der Stern. It was during this period that he made the acquaintance of Henri Cartier-Bresson and joined the Paris Magnum Agency.

In 1961 he was selected by the English publication Photography Annual as one of the seven best photographers in the world, and in the same year he was accepted as the sole Turkish member of ASMP (American Society of Magazine Photographers). In 1962 he was awarded the title Master of Leica, an honour accorded to very few photographers, and in the same year, the Swiss periodical Camera, the most important publication in the world of photography, devoted a special issue to his work. In 1964 photographs by Ara Guler were included in a work by Mariana Noris printed in the USA entitled Young Turkey. In 1967 an anthology entitled Photography of the World containing photographs by Ara Guler and Richard Avedon was published in Japan. An album of photographs entitled Turkei was published in Germany in 1970. Some photographs on the subject of art and the history of art appeared in the literary sections of Newsweek, Time-Life and Horizon, and were used by the Swiss publishing house Skira. Ara Guler furnished the photographs for Lord Kinross' Hagia Sophia, published in 1971.

The cover photograph on the English, French and German versions of Picasso, Metamorphose et Unite, published by Skira to celebrate Picasso's 90th birthday, was by Ara Guler. Works by Ara Guler were exhibited in Glimpses of the Human World in Canada in 1967, Ten Masters of Colour Photography in the New York Gallery of Modern art in 1968, and the Fotokina Fair in Koln in the same year. In 1972, an exhibition was opened in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. In 1975 he was invited to the United States, where he took photographs of a number of famous Americans, and an exhibition entitled Creative Americans composed of photographs taken during this trip was opened in several large cities throughout the world. About the same time, Ara Gdler interviewed and took photographs of various famous personalities from Bertrand Russel to Winston Churchill, Arnold Toynbee to Picasso and Salvador Dali. The most famous of these photographic portraits was that of Picasso who was well known for his refusal to sit to photographers. In 1979 Ara Guler was awarded First Prize by the Association of Turkish Journalists for his work in the field of photographic journalism. In 1980 a number of his photographs were published in book form by the Karacan Press under the title Photographs. In 1986 he supplied the photographs illustrating the book Mimar Sinan written by Abdullah Kuran and published by the Hurriyet Foundation.

The same book was published in English in 1987 by the Institute of Turkish Studies. In 1989 photographs of famous personalities in the world of the cinema were collected by Hil Publications under the title The Movie World of Ara Guler. In 1991 he supplied the photographs to illustrate the book The Sixth Continent written by Cevat Sakir Kabaagac (the Fisherman of Halicarnassus) for the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Meanwhile, Ara Guler had travelled over most of the world apart from South America, and the photographs taken during these travels had been distributed throughout various countries by the Magnum Agency and printed in various newspapers and periodicals. From 1989 onwards he worked in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei with the most distinguished photographers in the world on the programme A Day in the Lfe of.. His photographs of the works of the architect Sinan, a subject on which he had worked for many years, were published in France in 1991 by Edition Arthaud, and in the U.K. and U.S.A by Thames and Hudson in a deluxe edition entitled Sinan, Architect of Soliman the Magnjicent.

The same year saw the publication of a book published in the U.K. and U.S.A by Thames & Hudson under the title Living in Turkey, in Singapore by the Archipelago Press under the title Turkish Style, and in France by the Albin Michel Press with the title Demeures Ottomanes de Turquie. A large number of Ara Guler's photographs are to be found in the Bibliotheque National in Paris, the George Eastman Museum in Rochester U.S.A., and the Nebraska University Sheldon Collection. His photographs are also exhibited in Das Imaginare Photo-Museum and the Ludwig Museum in Koln.

Ara Güler (born 1928, Istanbul, Turkey) is a Turkish photojournalist and photographer of Armenian descent, nicknamed "the Eye of Istanbul" or "the Photographer of Istanbul".

Early life

Güler was born into a family of Armenian ethnicity. His father owned a pharmacy on Istiklal Avenue and had a wide circle of friends from the art world of the period. Ara Güler's early contact with this art world motivated him to embark on a career in cinema. Already during his high school years, he jobbed in movie studios and attended drama courses held by Muhsin Ertuğrul, the founder of modern Turkish theater. However, he abandoned cinema in favor of journalism, joining the staff of the newspaper Yeni Istanbul as photojournalist in 1950 and studied Economics at the University of Istanbul at the same time. He then transferred to another newspaper, Hürriyet.

Photography career

In 1958, the American magazine Time-Life opened a branch in Turkey, for which Güler became its first correspondent for the Near East. Soon followed commissions for some other international media like Paris-Match (French magazine), Stern (German magazine) and Sunday Times (English newspaper). After completing his military service in 1961, he was employed by the Turkish magazine Hayat as head of the photographic department.

It was around this period that he met Henri Cartier-Bresson and Marc Riboud, who both encouraged him to join the Magnum Photos agency, which he did. He was presented as "one of the seven best photographers" in the British 1961 Photography Yearbook. Also in that year, he was accepted as the first and only Turkish member to the ASMP, the American Society of Magazine Photographers (today American Society for Media Photographers). In 1962 he was awarded "Master of Leica", the most prestigious German title for photography. The Swiss magazine Camera honored him with a special issue.

In the 1960s, Ara Güler's photographs illustrated books of notable authors and were put on display at various expositions throughout the world. His works were exhibited 1968 in "10 Masters of Color Photography" at the New York Museum of Modern Art and at Fotokina Fair in Cologne, Germany. His photo album "Türkei" was published in Germany in 1970. His photos on art and art history were used in Time-Life, Horizon and Newsweek magazines and Skira Editore of Switzerland.

Ara Güler traveled to all corners of the world, which are difficult to reach and to such countries as Iran, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kenya, New Guinea, Borneo and all parts of Turkey. In the 1970s he held photographic interviews with such famous personalities as Winston Churchill, Indira Gandhi, Maria Callas, John Berger, Bertrand Russel, Willy Brandt, Alfred Hitchcock, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. However, his most renowned photographs remain those melancholic black and white pictures taken mostly with a Leica camera in Istanbul mainly in the 1950s and 1960s, golden age of photojournalism.

Since then, he received numerous awards, his work has been the subject of exhibitions and special supplements, and the world's most famous publishers have featured his photographs.

He also directed a documentary movie entitled "The End of the Hero" in 1975, based on a fictional account of the dismantling of the World War I veteran battlecruiser TCG Yavuz.

"Ara Güler's Creative Americans", "Ara Güler: Photographs", "Ara Güler's Movie Directors", "Sinan: Architect of Süleyman the Magnificent", and "Living in Turkey" are among the books of Güler's works published in France, the USA, England and Singapore. He also has an 800,000-piece photographic slide archive.

Most of these photographs are in museums and libraries abroad such as the National Library of France in Paris, the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Museum Ludwig Köln, and Das imaginäre Photo-Museum Köln.

Ara Güler is still roaming Istanbul's streets today with a Leica in the hand in search of the real face of the city and its inhabitants.

Güler's 'philosophy' of photography

Güler attaches the greatest importance to human presence in his photographs and describes himself as a "visual historian". "When I'm taking a picture of Aya Sofia, what counts is the person passing by who stands for life", he said. According to him, photography should provide a memory of people, of their lives and especially their suffering. While he considers that art lies, photography to him can only reflect reality. Thus in his case, one should speak of photojournalism rather than photography as an artistic pursuit, which to him would have little value. Indeed, he does not consider photography as an art.


* Öster om Eufrat, I Kurdernas Land (Swedish) by Barbro Karabuda, Tidens Förlag, Stockholm, Sweden (1960) 102pp
* Young Turkey, Children of Turkey at work and at play (English) by Marianna Norris, Dodd, Mead, New York, USA (1964) 64pp
* Topkapı Sarayı - Sultan Portreleri (Turkish) Doğan Kardeş Yayınları, Istanbul, Turkey (1967)
* Turkei (German) Terra Magica, Munich, Germany (1970)
* Hagia Sophia (English) by Lord Kinross, Newsweek Books, New York, USA (1972) 172pp
* The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy (English) Thames & Hudson, London, UK (1976)
* Harems (English) Chene & Hudson, London, UK (1976)
* Fotoğraflar (Turkish) Milliyet Yayınları, Istanbul, Turkey (1980)
* Fikret Mualla (Turkish) by Turan Erol, Cem Yayınları, Istanbul, Turkey (1980)
* Bedri Rahmi (Turkish) by Turan Erol, Cem Yayınları, Istanbul, Turkey (1984)
* Mimar Sinan (Turkish) by Prof. Abdullah Kuran, Hürriyet Vakfı Yayınları, Istanbul, Turkey (1986)
* Mimar Sinan (English) by Prof. Abdullah Kuran, Institute of Turkish Studies, Washington D.C., USA (1987)
* Ara Güler'in Sinamacıları (Turkish) Hil Yayınları, Istanbul, Turkey (1989)
* The Sixth Continent by Halkarnas Balıkçısı (Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı), T.C. Dışişleri Bakanlığı Kültür Dairesi, Ankara, Turkey (1991)
* Sinan: Architect of Suleyman the Magnificent and the Ottoman Golden Age (English) by John Freely, Augusto Romano Burelli Thames and Hudson, London, UK (1992) ISBN 0-500-34120-6
* Living in Turkey (English) by Stephane Yerasimos, Thames & Hudson, London and New York (1992) 223pp
* Demeures Ottomans de Turquie (French) by Stephane Yerasimos, Albin Michel, Paris, France (1992)
* Turkish Style (English) by Stephane Yerasimos, Archipelago Press, Singapore (1992)
* Eski İstanbul Anıları (Turkish) Dünya Şirketler Grubu, Istanbul, Turkey (1994)
* A Photographical Sketch on Lost Istanbul (English) Dünya Şirketler Grubu, Istanbul, Turkey (1994)
* Bir Devir Böyle Geçti, Kalanlara Selam Olsun (Turkish) Ana Yayıncılık, Istanbul, Turkey (1994)
* Yitirilmiş Renkler (Turkish) Dünya Şirketler Grubu, İstanbul, Turey (!995)
* Yüzlerinde Yeryüzü (Turkish) Ana Yayıncılık, Istanbul, Turkey (1995)
* Babil'den Sonra Yaşayacağız (Turkish) Aras Yayınları, Istanbul, Turkey (1996)


* International Photography Year Book Star Photographers, UK and Canada (1961)
* Camera Magazine (Special issue), Lucern, Switzerland (February 1962)
* Leica Fotografie Nr. 2 (Special issue due to his "Master of Leica" Award), UK, France, Germany (1962)
* Katalog, Weltausstellung der Fotografie Fotokina by Dr. Karl Pavek, Cologne, Germany (1963)
* Camera Magazine Nr. 6 (Special Turkish Photography) Switzerland (June 1966)
* Sunday Journal Lincoln, Nebraska, USA (September 11, 1966)
* British Journal of Photography AnnualLondon, UK (1967)
* Photography of the World Orion Press, Tokyo, Japan (1967)
* 2. Weltausstellung der Fotografie, "Die Frau" by Dr. Karl Pavek, Cologn, Germany (1968)
* Photographie Italiana by Lanfranco Colombo, p.127, Milano, Italy (March 1968)
* Photographare Magazine by Romanof Fea, Rome, Italy (November 1968)
* Historie de la Photographie "Quw Sais-je?" by Jean A.Leim, Press Universitaire de France
* Milliyet Sanat Dergisi Nr. 2, Istanbul, (October 6, 1972)
* Buried Cities and Ancient Treasures (on Aphrodisias) by Dora Jane Hamblin, p.192, Simon and Schulster, New York, USA (1973)
* People Magazine New York, USA (October 28, 1974)
* Creative Americans (Catalogue) Romeo E. Martinez, U.S.I.S. (1975)
* Camera Magazine, Elite World Photographers-1, Lucerne, Switzerland (November 1975)
* Photo Cinema p.82, Paris, France (June 1976)
* Leica Fotografie Nr. 5, by Fritz Kempe, Frankfurt, Germany (1976
* Yeni Fotograf Dergisi Sayı 1, Istanbul, Turkey (October 1976)
* Camera Magazine Lucern, Switzerland (February 1977)
* Saudi Gazette Saudi Arabia, (May 1979)
* Dumont Foto 2, Fotokunst und Fotodesign International, Das Antlitz im Wandel der Zeit by Fritz Gruber, Colgne, Germany (1980)
* Popular Photographie by John Morris, USA (1980)
* Dumont Foto 3 by Renate & L. Fritz Gruber, Das imaginäre Photo-Museum, Cologne, Germany (1981)
* Photography Annual New York, USA (1981)
* Photographer's Encyclopedia International Vol. 1, Michelle ve Michael Auer, Edition Camera Obscura, Switzerland (1985)
* Catalogue 6emes Journees International de la Photo et de L'audiovisuel by Alain Gheerbrant, Montpellier, France (1985)
* Leica Fotografie p.18, Frankfurt, Germany (1987)
* Aamulehti Tempere, Finland (1989)
* Helsingin Sonamat Helsinki, Finland (April 1989)
* Kamera Nr. 3, Finland (1989)
* Contreplongee Revue du Cinema et Culture, Nr. 19, Strasbourg, France (March 1990)
* Fotograf Sanat Dergisi Sayı 9, Istanbul, Turkey (June 1989)
* Time & Time International Book Review Nr. 31, (about the book "Sinan") New York, USA (August 3, 1992)
* Bitmeyen Roportaj Istanbul, (Exposition catalogue), Istanbul, Turkey (April 1993)
* Photographers International Nr. 14,(Chinese - English), Taipei, Taiwan (June 1994)
* PDN - Photo District News Magazine, Ara Güler: Reality, History and Lost Istanbul p.43, by Mark Simon, USA, (August 1995)
* Mediterranee Magazine, Pieton d'Istanbul Nr. 13, by Pierre Sorgue, France (March 1996)
* Matador Magazine, Ara Güler "Estambul: La Puerta Del Mas Alla" Vol. B, Madrid, Spain (1996)
* Photographie des 20, Jahrhunderts (German) Museum Ludwig Cologne, Germany, Edition Taschen (1997)
* Turkey's Passionate Interpreter to the World by Stephen Kinzer, New York Times, USA (April 13, 1997)
* Interpreting Turkey: A Master's Vision by Stephen Kinzer, International Herald Tribune, Paris, France (April 16, 1997)


* Légion d'honneur, France
* Grand Prize of Culture and Arts, Turkey (November 11, 2005)

Honorary Doctorate

* Yıldız Technical University, Istanbul (June 8, 2004)

Source: Wikipedia


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