Major exhibition follows Ara Güler’s footsteps
A major exhibition featuring works by the late Ara Güler has opened in Istanbul to pay tribute to the late Turkish photography master and present a visual chronicle of the change Istanbul, his beloved hometown, lived through in the decades through his sharp eye.
Istanbul Modern Photography Gallery presented the exhibition titled “Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul,” with Istanbul Modern’s photography director Demet Yıldız as the curator and Umut Sülün as an adviser.
A collaboration between Istanbul Modern and the Ara Güler Museum, the exhibition showcases the collections and archives of both institutions “to show the role of Güler’s photographs in shaping the public’s collective memory of Istanbul and the changes that have taken place in the city from the mid-20th century to the present,” according to the organizers.
“We present the viewers the changing faces of the neighborhoods that Ara Güler roamed and documented as an Istanbul lover accompanied with maps. Looking at those maps we will all remember the Istanbul of the past,” said Oya Eczacıbaşı, the chair of Istanbul Modern, said in an opening ceremony.
Güler’s photographs “have made a very significant contribution to the construction of the public’s collective imagination and memories of the city,” Istanbul Modern said in a statement on its website.
The exhibition “combines Güler’s photographs, which invite viewers to look at them again and again, with archival materials in order to highlight Güler’s practice as well as his role in the creation of our perception of Istanbul,” it said.
The works comprise photographs from different periods, all signed by Güler, as well as various dark room prints, objects and ephemera from the archives of both institutions.
As a whole, the exhibition aims to address the relationship between photography and photographer’s subjectivity through the works of Güler, who defines himself as a photojournalist and photojournalists as “people who write history with their cameras.”
The exhibition will be open until Nov. 17.
Güler’s works have also been traveling around the world this year.
On May 23, an exhibition organized by the Turkish Presidency in collaboration with the Ara Güler Museum and Archive and Research Center opened in the French capital.
It mainly focuses on Güler’s Istanbul photos but also features shots from the Anatolian countryside and historical portraits of well-known names such as Jean Renoir, Salvador Dali, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brigitte Bardot along with world-famous Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet and folk legend Aşık Veysel.
This followed a London exhibition which displayed portraits of prominent British figures such as former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, film director Alfred Hitchcock and philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Following Paris, the exhibition will also travel to Kyoto, New York, Rome and Mogadishu.
Güler was born in Istanbul in 1928. He worked as a Near East photojournalist for Time-Life magazine in 1956, for Paris Match in 1958 and also Stern magazine. Magnum Photos also published Güler’s photos globally, and in 1961, he became the first Turkish member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers (ASMP).
In 1962, he was awarded the Master of Leica title in Germany and was featured in a special issue of Swiss Camera magazine, one of the world’s leading photography publications. Güler also photographed the images for Lord Kinross’ “Hagia Sophia” book published in 1971 and the cover photo for “Picasso: Métamorphose et Unité” published by Skira Books to celebrate Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s 90th birthday.
Güler’s photographs of the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan’s buildings were published in a book titled “Sinan: Architect of Suleiman the Magnificent” in France in 1992 by Edition Arthaud Publications and in the U.S. and U.K. by Thames & Hudson Publications.
In 2002, he was awarded the “Légion d’honneur: Officier des Arts et des Lettres” by the French government, and in 2009, he received “La Médaille de la Ville de Paris” from the Paris Municipality.
Güler died on Oct. 17, 2018 at the age of 90.