Street Photography in Laleli and Aksaray

Where am I? Is this still Istanbul?

Laleli and Aksaray are cosmopolitan areas of Istanbul largely inhabited by Eastern Europeans. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in another country completely! Undaunted, I scoured the area for things to photograph in my study of street photography for Thatcher Cook's workshop in Istanbul.

Obviously the clothes are designed for leggy, blonde Russian girls!

The area is mostly full of clothes shops and wholesale dealers. Everywhere you can see men transporting huge bundles along the streets, heading towards the bus station.

Men can be seen trundling huge loads...

...or waiting around for the next lot!

...or just waiting around!

Tas Han, the old bazaar quarter

I did stumble on one interesting bazaar area, that of theTas Han. Built on the site of a Byzantine water cistern, Tas Han was constructed in 1763 as part of the Laleli Mosque complex as an inn for travellers, and later as a barracks for soldiers. The han gradually fell into disrepair until it was rescued by a local man, Kemal Ocak, who saw its potential, and financed its restoration from 1993 - 1996. Today it is a thriving shopping area, but with old world charm, and some very good restaurants.

The original stonework was preserved as much as possible in the restoration of the han, 
as can be seen in the upper floors...

...and in the long narrow corridors of shops

Nearby, these workmen were playing with a dog; business seemed slow...

...although the shoe cleaner was busy with a customer...

...and these ladies were selling their knitwear.

Finally, it was time to go, so I took the tram back to the hotel ready for the next adventure.

This was an interesting area, because of the different types of people there, and its cosmopolitan feel. I think I will have to visit again soon.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Photographing Kumkapi and Kadirga, Istanbul

Colourful lanterns in Kumkapi, Istanbul

On our second day of street photography with Thatcher Cook, we wandered through the Kumkapi and Kadirga districts of Istanbul. These are fascinating for their history, although now, Kumkapi especially, has become full of touristy fish restaurants. Despite this, the locals still manage to follow their traditional ways.

A street vendor sells rice and beans from his cart

A junk dealer wheels his barrow through the streets

Kumkapi (or Sand Gate) was the site of Kontoskalion Harbour, originally built by the Byzantine Emperor, Julian (AD361 - 363), and later becoming the city's naval base under the reign of Michael VIII Paleologus in 1261. In recent times, this harbour has served the fishing fleets bringing their catches from the Back Sea and the Sea of Marmara. There used to be a thriving fish market in Kumkapi, but this has recently been demolished, ready for new developments.

Entrance to the Church of Panaglia Elpida, Kumkapi

Kumkapi has always been home to a large Greek and Armenian population, and it grew in importance when the Armenian Patriarch moved here in the 17th century. In fact, the Armenians were in the majority here as late as the 1850s. Because of the Armenian and Greek influence in this area, there are some beautiful Christian churches. This is the entrance to the Church of Panaglia Elpida, dating back to the 15th century. We tried to go in, but were rebuffed, so I can only show the entrance.

Greek Church of Saint Kyriaki Kontoskaliou

We did manage to see the beautiful Agia Kyriaki, although we weren't allowed to take photos inside. This church is said to have one of the largest domes, and stands on the site of a sacred spring, dedicated to Saint Basil.

A homeless man sits with his possessions by an old Ottoman fountain.

 Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Mosque, Kadirga, Istanbul

Kadirga is a rather run down neighbourhood, dominated by a large mosque built by the architect, Sinan, for Esmahan Sultan, the wife of the Grand Vizier, Sokullu Mehmet Pasa, after whom the mosque is named. 

This stall sells sandwiches filled with meatballs (kofte)

This is an area largely ignored by tourists, so the shops and cafes retain their local flavour, despite the recent influx of Ethiopians and Russians. Many poorer neighbourhoods, such as this, will have only very basic cooking facilities in homes, so buying ready-made food is a way of life. Indeed, it can often be cheaper to eat out in Istanbul, than buy in all the ingredients for home-cooked meals.

The popular kebab shops are everywhere...

...and are often open late into the night

Elizabeth Coughlan


Edirnekapı Bird Market, Istanbul

Edirnekapı Kuş Pazarı (Edirnekapi Bird Market is held on Sundays

I recently spent a very interesting and edifying week at Thatcher Cook's Istanbul Photography Workshop. The focus of the workshop was to "Communicate your unique experience of the world by telling stories through your images".

Thatcher says that, "The telling of stories through images is an exciting and effective way for a photographer to communicate his or her unique experience of the world. The most profound picture stories are multi-layered. How a story is told is often more important than the narrative itself. Mood, color and composition are among the elements used to transform the narrative to the visually poetic."

So, armed with this philosophy, we ventured out on our first day to photograph the bird market in Edirnekapı, by the old city walls of Constantinople. Here men barter for the fastest racing pigeon, or the rarest breed of budgie or some other, to me anyway, unidentifiable bird.

Many of the birds are tethered with string so they can't fly away
when their owners show off their birds

Some of the men didn't want their photo take, but others didn't mind

This man was undoubtedly proud of his his beautiful bird

There was obviously lots of discussion before any sales were made

Drinking tea seemed an important part of the process...

...and food was never far away

I could see that this workshop was to present quite a challenge. This sort of street photography can be intimidating, especially for a woman among hundreds of men ...not to mention the pigeons! But, undaunted, I tried my best, and carried on to the next task!


Happy New Year from Istanbul

Mutlu Yillar means Happy New Year in Turkish

New Year celebrations here in Istanbul are over, and the decorations are coming down; although some shops, restaurants, and private houses are still festooned with typical decorations. To celebrate New Year, there are ornamental Christmas trees, street lights, and even Santa Claus, to be found all over the city. This is because Turkey uses all the trappings of Christmas to celebrate the New Year. ...even down to a turkey dinner, and presents from Noel Baba (Father Noel).

Noel Baba waves to passers-by on Bagdat Caddesi where I live

The presence of Santa Claus is not that surprising, considering he was born here, in Turkey. Saint Nicholas was born in Patara on Turkey's Mediterranean coast during the 3rd century, and became Bishop of Myra. He gained a reputation for secret gift-giving, and it was rumoured he had extra pockets sewn into his cloak that he filled with fruit and candy to give to children. This gave rise to the story of the kind Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus), who secretly leaves presents on Christmas Eve.

Many shops were beautifully decorated like this one...

...and this one

Christmas trees were everywhere...

...in different guises

...my local hairdresser had one in their salon.

All along the street were installations reminiscent of Christmas - like presents...

...and baubles...

...although I wasn't sure about the bear...

...or the elephant!

According to numerologists, 2015 is going to be a year of abundance and happiness, so here is wishing you everything you wish yourselves, and may this be the happiest of Happy New Years!

by Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!