Turkiye, Culture

Turkey commemorates ace photographer Ara Guler

Guler died last year of heart attack in Istanbul

Sena Güler   | 17.10.2019
Turkey commemorates ace photographer Ara Guler


Turkey on Thursday observed the first death anniversary of ace photographer Ara Guler, who is fondly remembered as the 'Eye of Istanbul'.

Guler captured Istanbul in his signature black and white portraits which brought him international acclaim.

He was born in 1928 and passed away last year in Istanbul at the age of 90 due to a heart attack.

Before an exalted career in photography, Guler joined the film industry. He landed his first job as an assistant film projector in one of the many theaters in Beyoglu, a neighborhood in Istanbul.

He also took drama courses with Muhsin Ertugrul, founder of modern Turkish theater, and even worked with him.

At the age of 22, he received his first camera -- a Rolleicord II -- and began taking photos for a local newspaper Yeni Istanbul.

Coskun Aral, his longtime friend and contemporary, said Guler visited remote locations of the world.

“The world, Turkey did not lose him. Even on the first anniversary, we and the world are talking about him.

“Because the values he left behind are of great importance,” Aral added.

Renowned Turkish historian Ilber Ortayli praised Guler for documenting Turkey of the 40s and 60s.

"Photographs by others are not that vivid," he said.

He got his first break after meeting renowned French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson and through him, Romeo Martinez, editor-in-chief of the reputed Camera magazine. There was no looking back, and Guler became a member of Magnum Photos, an international photography cooperative.

By the end of the 50s, he had worked for renowned magazines such as Time-Life in the U.S., the French weekly Paris Match and Der Stern in Germany, traveling around the world from Pakistan to Kenya and from New Guinea to Borneo.

In 1957, he was in France covering the Cannes Film Festival. He met legendary figures from the film industry, including American filmmaker Orson Welles, Italian writer Alberto Moravia and Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.

He was in Sudan in 1978 just before the second Eritrean civil war to report on clashes between rebel groups. Just before the 1980 military coup in Turkey, Guler went to Mongolia to photograph 8th century inscriptions.

In 1990, he headed to Indonesia with his wife for a report on cannibal tribes.

Discovery of ancient site

But it was in Turkey that he made one of his most astounding discoveries: an ancient city called Aphrodisias in the western province of Aydin in 1958.

As he was returning from a job involving the inauguration of a dam, his driver lost his way, ending up in a village where locals used the antique architecture in their daily life.

Guler also photographed the likes of Winston Churchill, John Berger, Alfred Hitchcock and Salvador Dali, among many, many others.

“Ara's philosophy on photography is that he attaches great importance to the presence of humans in photography and considers himself as a visual historian,” according to his website.

Guler was presented the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey Culture and Arts Grand Award in 2005, the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism Culture and Arts Service Award in 2008, the Turkish Grand National Assembly Superior Service Award in 2009, the U.S. Lucie Awards Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 and the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism Culture and Arts Grand Award in 2011.

In 2004, he was also given an honorary fellowship by Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul.

*Berk Ozkan in Istanbul contributed to this report

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