Mapping Turkey: Photography

Ara Güler born August 16, 1928 in Beyoğlu, Istanbul, Turkey) is an Armenian-Turkish photojournalist. His pictures show Istanbul as a being a bustling, thriving, romantic city in the mid-20th century. He is considered one of Turkey's few internationally known photographers.


For the full Photography mapping please click here.


Photography in Turkey has a long history. It was first introduced to the Ottoman Empire right after its invention in 1839 and the first commercial studios started to pop up in Istanbul in the 1850s. Due to the extraordinary importance given to pho-tography by Sultan Abdülhamid II, photography spread swiftly all over the empire and there even existed official court photographers. But things didn’t always go that smoothly. During the transformation period from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic in 1923, and in the first years of the republic, in conjunction with the drastic change in the demographics, photography somehow lost its prevalence in Anatolia, except in the big cities. Until the last quarter of the 20th century – keeping in mind the few notable exceptions – long-lasting photography institutions, which must be gran-ted as keys to the enhancement of this art form, almost never existed and amateur photography dominated the scene. Currently, there is a more internationally connected photography scene, an upcoming generation of enthusiastic photographers, an art scene that is embracing photography more than ever and diligent institutions and organisations willing to collaborate with partners.

Nowadays, there is a huge possibility of cultural collaboration between Turkish and international organisations and professionals in the photography field. Many organi-sations of different sizes exist and they are eager to work with international counter-parts either in fostering and exhibiting new works or organising short- and long-term educational programmes, exchange programmes or capacity-building programmes. Much is needed to collaborate on displaying works produced in Turkey abroad, either individually or collectively gathered around specific topics. The recognition of photo-graphy from Turkey is on the rise compared to the period before this millennium, but still insufficient. There are numerous possibilities for researchers working with ar-chives, and for curators and gallerists looking for emerging talents. Artist residencies of various forms and funding or grant schemes are very common worldwide but rare in Turkey. International collaborations to multiply these would also be highly pro-ductive. Most of the activities are taking place in big cities, especially in Istanbul, so breaking this routine would be mutually beneficial.

Youth, human rights issues, identity and minorities are topics that have always been on trend and work on these topics needs to continue. For political reasons, it may be difficult to work in regions such as southeast Turkey or on subjects that are politically sensitive or socially unaccepted. The main difficulty for international collaboration might be meeting the financial terms on the Turkish side, since there are very few funding mechanisms in Turkey.

For the full Photography mapping please click here.