Old Modernity Serie - Istanbul 2016

My camera broke last year. I sent to repair and it was then lost by the post. Ultimately, it was found but I spent half a year fiddling with my father's Nikon FE2 while this happened. Brought in Istanbul, I was able to see the city for the second time in 7 years. Captured in black and white first, the colours come in later to complete the story.

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The atmosphere changed. I first came in summer 2009, and I was returning in the spring of 2016. The area felt less crowded, perhaps because of the season or because of the bombing that happened two months earlier in the city. Streets weren't full of tourists like before and the sellers on the side of the road felt more insistent, yet careful not to become too invasive.

 

We had some small talk with a street vendor and he told us it wasn't easy. What used to be a crowded city of buzzing tourists bringing business now felt like a town of hungry cats, looking at the rare mice that would venture on the path.

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Even though the context was difficult, the people were still kind and welcoming. The city kept its beauty with its neverending mosques. As in Japan, kimono wouldn't keep a smile away from my face, Istanbul was no exception with some sights of men wearing traditional clothes.

 

Shifting to colours, I will not forget the evening spent in a tiny restaurant in the Fatih district. We met Adam, a Syrian man playing and singing in a restaurant held by two Kurdish siblings. His songs in Arabic depicted his experiences and a love story he had back in Syria.

 

For the time of an evening, we discussed the concerns of Kurdish people and the historical struggle that existed in Turkey between them. There was a strange symmetry with Adam's story, where his experience led him and others to end up in Istanbul, stuck between two images of Syria that existed in Turkey. He didn't know what to do and even though he could get some small jobs, without any real work permit, there was no certainty.

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I guess the state of the city could be resumed by uncertainty. Fewer tourists, more attacks, an unstable government accusing once the Kurds or Daesh, it felt like Istanbul was unclear how to process it.

 

Life goes on, though. People still go on with their lives. In a mosque, we were greeted by several students speaking all the languages of the world and eager to share their knowledge about the capital. We ended up talking about vegetarianism and it was interesting how for this one student, it seemed like such a foreign concept, well too attached to its country's cuisine with meat in it. Despite the uncertainty, these times of sharing still dominated the social landscape of Istanbul.

 

One day after we left, there was another attack in Istanbul, in the shopping district. Many followed after that, some in Ankara, some in the Ataturk airport and of course, others in Istanbul. But like Paris, like Brussels, like others places in the Middle East where this is a daily occurrence, life goes on.

I went home with a heavy heart when I learned about the attack. As I had the same feeling when attacks arose in France, I hope that these events will not deter, nor prevent people from coming to these countries anyway. Locals still continue their lives, even scarred, and they overcome it. Life always finds a way.