Erzurum: Searching for Snow
WILCO VAN HERPEN
We arrived at Konaklı late in the afternoon; the sun was setting already. Beautiful orange and red clouds lit up by the sun and in the background, the small neighborhood of Konaklı...Last week, I went with Salih Güler, an art, animal and snow photographer, to Erzurum. His motto in photography is: “Less is more…”
One day, my assistant Esra Has phoned me, she was very excited. “Wilco, I found a very nice photographer who will be excellent for your program. This man takes pictures of snow, but not the nice romantic kind of pictures we generally see; no, his pictures are very minimalistic. It will be great for your program,” she said. So a couple of days later, I met Salih and together we would go for a snow-hunting and picture-taking trip to Abant near Bolu.
Already on our way to Abant, I started to get a bad feeling about this trip. The mountains, which are generally dressed up with a beautiful layer of snow during this time of year, were all naked. My foreboding turned out to be right; there was no snow in Abant.
Four weeks later, Salih and I met again. It was at Sabiha Gökçen Airport and our destination was Erzurum. This year Turkey is facing a disaster due to the lack of snow (and rain). The only place where there was sufficient snow was Erzurum. So there we went; “Erzurum, here we come…”
The landing turned out more difficult than expected. Looking from above the clouds, I had a spectacular view of the mountains surrounding Erzurum, but there was no sign whatsoever of Erzurum itself. It was hidden away under a thick layer of clouds. The pilot had to board his landing two times due to the heavy fog and managed, although a bit roughly, to land his plane during the third attempt.
One of the places we would visit was a mountain slope with caves just 30 minutes away from the city center. Another place that would be perfect for Salih was Palandöken, 20 minutes away from the city center. On our way to Palandöken we saw two giant ski slopes for ski jumping specially made for the Erzurum winter Olympics of 2011. Unfortunately, all the buildings and facilities that had been made for those winter games are just standing there, waiting for better times to come. Finding an alternative became our mission and off we went to Konaklı.
We arrived at Konaklı late in the afternoon; the sun was setting already. Beautiful orange and red clouds lit up by the sun and in the background, the small neighborhood of Konaklı. Further away, I could see the ski tracks of Konaklı and was surprised by the amount of ski tracks.
Unfortunately, there were not many skiers here because this looked like a quite nice area for skiing or snow rafting. This would be a perfect place to visit the next day, so off we went, back to Erzurum. It was evening and while walking around, suddenly someone shouted my name. I looked around and saw a man in front of Güzelyurt Restaurant. He invited us in and I was quite surprised; this looked like a French restaurant from the 1950’s, but without being old fashioned.
Huge army complex
The next morning, our first goal was the caves. While following the directions someone gave us, we suddenly found ourselves in front of the entrance of a huge army complex. Friendly, but resolute, the soldier guarding the gate told us we had to turn around. To make a long story short; we never made it to the caves. This place for me was also perfect because I wanted to do something with water, ice and snow and here they all came together.
The funny thing with the work I am doing is sometimes it seems as if everything is working against us, but then suddenly … A small thing happens; it reshapes the program. This was such a place. This 300 square meters turned out to be the place for both Salih and me. Taking pictures, the interviews, everything fell into its place.
That morning there were three happy people walking around with three different cameras photographing and filming whatever appeared in front of their lenses.