I may have found a way to put my street photos to some use. Not in terms of creativity, or design. I still have no ambitions or confidence in that regard. But there is something else that has been bugging me for ages, and there I may be able to do something with them. Which is trying (against all odds) to change the perception that people have of my city by starting a Facebook page (awful design, but nothing to be done about that, it is the thing that has the reach) where I simply post what I capture around me. And also a tumblr where I post the pictures in a much nicer way, mostly in order to satisfy my own designer cravings. Doubt that too many people will be looking at that one.
Funnily enough it isn’t only foreigners who have a very warped perception of this place. Locals have it too. For me, this city is magic. For the Western tourists who come here it is what they see in the historic peninsula and what they see from the top of the tour bus. They come here with a mis-perception that this is an exotic, oriental city and there is plenty to re-enforce that if all they see is the Grand Bazaar, the palace, the historic mosques and the flocks of Arabic tourists who tend to congregate there and whom they will invariably mistake for locals.
For the locals the city is a nightmare of traffic, of congestion. And there is something in the psyche here that involves a lot of self-deprecation. I see this in my students, my friends, my relatives. A deep deep dissatisfaction with who they are and what surrounds them. Very low self esteem. A lot of “we will never amount to anything” nonsense. I have been to lots of big cities. From Hong Kong to Sao Paolo. And of course all the usual suspects like London, Rome and Paris. And yes – 30 years ago Istanbul was a very provincial sister to these. I have actually written about how the city transformed and re-invented itself right here on this blog.
Today, it rocks. It is the metropolis to end all metropolises. It rocks with its youth, with its street animals, with its protest politics, its anger. Its humor. Its resilience. I live in, and therefore I obviously wander around in areas that are congenial to me. I know that there are vast neighborhoods where life is quite different. I know that there is lots of poverty for example. That poverty I do not see where I am. The city is huge. You could spend a lifetime here and not see most of it ever. But I have decided to show what I do see everyday. And hopefully to enable an alternative way of looking at this society. Neither as an orientalist fantasy, nor as a “we will never amount to anything” negativity. We do amount to something. Something energetic, funny, wild, contradictory and provocative. And that is what I want to show.