“Eye of Istanbul” at National Gallery

The Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Turkey in Georgia opened the personal exhibition of Ara Guler at the National Gallery on October 16. Widely recognized as the “Eye of Istanbul,” he is an Armenian-Turkish photographer.

Ara Guler was involved in drama circles. However, his thirst for journalism urged him to abandon cinema and theatre. Soon, he met Master Henri-Cartier-Bresson who later invited him to join Magnum Photos.

In his opening speech, the Turkish Ambassador in Georgia, H.E. Mr. Zeki Levent Gumrukcu pointed out that when Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Prize laureate and best-selling Turkish writer, was working on his book “Istanbul: Memories and the City’” he did it in the archives of Ara Guler. Pamuk himself confessed that he always perceived the Istanbul of his childhood as a black-and-white photograph. “In Ara Guler’s photographs Istanbul appears like a melancholic city, reflected also on its dwellers’ faces, in an environment where poverty and modesty merge, under the aging sounds of the old and new,” said Pamuk in one of his interviews.

“Not only Istanbul, but also some of the most important landmarks of Turkey have been brought to the world’s attention through Ara Guler’s photographs, including the ancient city of Aphrodisias, legend of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat and others,” said Ambassador Gumrukcu. “Until 1962, nobody knew that the city of Aphrodisias existed until Ara Guler discovered it.” Reportedly, when Guler accidentally found himself there, villagers were sitting not on normal chairs but some ancient columns turned upside down. When the photographer asked them where they had taken them from, they took him to the place – an ancient city beneath the ground, which soon, through his photos, became an attractive destination for archeologists.

The exposition also features breathtaking pictures of Istanbul as well as the portraits of very famous personalities of the 20th century, including Maria Kalas, Pablo Picasso and William Saroyan. Ambassador Gumrukcu said that Ara Guler always remembers his roots and wanted to attend the opening of the exhibition in Tbilisi, but was unable to come due to his poor health. “He was so sorry not to be here this day, but to mark his presence, he personally signed each photo that we brought to this exhibition,” said the Turkish Ambassador.

Mikheil Tsereteli, Deputy Director General of the Georgian National Museum said: “This is of the utmost importance for us as he is a great photographer. For Georgia, as for all countries, it is an honor to host such a photographer, who at the same time comes from our neighbor country and represents its population and its cultural heritage.”

Levan Kharatishvili, Deputy Minister of Culture, told Georgia Today: “We are always happy to promote cultural exchange between sister countries. This tightens our bilateral relations. Correspondingly, we do not miss the opportunity to give them room. We express condolences to those who suffered from the October 10 tragedy in Ankara. By looking at these photos, I am once again reminded how important the life of any human is, as there is hardly any photo here without a human on it.“

Ara Guler, the most important living representative of creative photography in Turkey today, has a well-established international reputation. He became a photo-journalist for Paris Match and Stern in 1958. In the British Journal of Photography Year Book published in the UK in 1961, Guler was named one of the seven best photographers of the world. In the same year, he was accepted as a member of ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) and was its only Turkish member. In 1962, he received the Master of Leica award in Germany. In 1974, he was invited to the US where he photographed a number of famous Americans, photos that were later exhibited under the title “Creative Americans” in many cities around the world.

Ara Guler, an Armenian-Turkish photo journalist from Istanbul, was born in August 16, 1928. He started his career as a photo journalist and worked in several leading newspapers in Turkey. Although he always presented himself as a photo journalist or even a “visual historian”, capturing historical events with his camera, his photographs are among the best artistic images of Istanbul and Turkey. What’s more, his portrait photographs of some of the most famous personalities of the 20th century with whom he made interviews are also among the best examples of the combination of photography and journalism. He was awarded by various countries for his lifetime achievements and outstanding services in the field of photography including Legion d’Honneur Officier des Arts et des Lettres.

The exhibition in Tbilisi is Ara Guler’s first in Georgia, and the selection of more than 100 black and white photographs provides a unique reflection of his work on Istanbul, Turkey and his portraits. Do not miss the large and imposing exhibition, open until October 31.

Maka Lomadze with the contribution of Eka Karsaulidze

22 October 2015 22:37