Ara Güler has found himself in the spotlight yet again. Last week it was announced that The Eye of Istanbul, a documentary film about the legendary Armenian-Turkish photographer and the culmination of his retrospective exhibition in Istanbul, won Best of Fest at the DC Independent Film Festival. The screening at the festival also served as the US debut of the documentary, which was directed by Binnur Karaevli and Fatih Kaymak.
Anyone with a passing interest in Turkey has likely seen Güler’s work. He is to Istanbul what Ansel Adams is to the American West: his black-and-white photographs memoralise a particular place in time, articulating its inherent value. While Ansel’s majestic shots of Yosemite inspire environmentalists, Güler’s photographs of Istanbul and all its moving parts both spark and magnify the love visitors and residents feel for the city. Need proof? Look no further than Cornucopia 17, which features his phenomenal pictures in a 40-page spread celebrating Turkey’s 75th birthday.
Yet his iconic shots of the city are not the only reason Güler has earned the moniker the ‘eye of Istanbul’: he is also incredibly prolific. Güler’s career has spanned over 60 years, during which time he has generated more than one million photographs – although best known for his pictures of Istanbul, a significant percentage of his work was shot in other parts of Turkey and abroad.
Employing a non-linear narrative, the documentary follows Güler as he prepares for his retrospective exhibition. While assembling and organising his photographs for the show, the 87-year-old relates the stories behind his most iconic images. These anecdotes are an oral history of sorts, documenting the lives of the people he met and the major historical events he witnessed. They also reveal Güler’s wit, curiosity and resourcefulness.
You can watch the trailer here:
The film, which was also a finalist at the International Thessaloniki Film Festival, does not yet have a release date in Turkey. But we will keep you abreast of any developments.
If you would like to see Güler’s work up-close, there is an exhibition at the Fulya Art Centre that features Güler’s photographs of the author Yaşar Kemal, another cultural great. It is a hidden gem – we were the only ones in the gallery when we stopped by last week. We highly recommend visiting it this weekend. The show finishes on Thursday, March 31.