Category Archives: Turkey

The yashmak

In the present climate of peril with respect to things one mustn’t say or think, some delightful stuff is fated to be forced underground. A case in point has to do with masking and veiling: masking is now (in 2021, not in 2019) de rigeur in some settings and circumstances, but a bone of contention in others. Veiling is deprecated in some settings and circumstances, but obligatory in others. One mocks with care, and with an eye peeled for the culture police, and never quite knows where the edges are today. A case in point is packed into this image:


which I’ve described as “the yashmak of her wildest dreams” (well, it’s really ‘yaşmak’, in Turkish).

I first learned the term 60+ years ago, via an Elsa Lanchester song that skates awfully close to the incorrect in 2021:

The original image was pretty undistinguished, or perhaps just too chaotic,
and I didn’t process it the day I took the photo (there were much better candidates):
(see Sand for how and why)


but later it occurred to me that mirroring might do something interesting. The first attempt:


Hmmm. Elaborate, but not eloquent enough. So try flipping vertically:


Closer, but no cigar yet. And then I saw those eyes:

How about if I bring them together by taking a narrower slice and mirroring…
and there you have two bewitching eyes and a marvelously ornate yashmak:

So, once again: something from nothing.

Market arrays

Market vendors take great pains to make their wares attractive to potential buyers, and I suspect there are styles of display that could be identified, just as there are vocal come-ons that could be recorded. There’s not much that’s haphazard, and a lot of virtuoso arrangement goes into setup (indeed, photographing the process of setup would be a wonderful challenge). The two markets we visited, one daily (Adapazarı) and the other weekly (Sapanca), were a delicious introduction to vast complexities, and all I managed to do was collect a tiny fragment of the rich variety. It takes me a long time to become comfortable enough to really see what’s around me, and I regret that I hurried through both markets and didn’t do much to communicate with the sellers –most of whom were professionally friendly and entirely willing to talk to even a tongue-tied and clueless foreigner. I could ask the polite question (Fotoğrafınızı çekebilir miyim?) but not much more. It was easier to communicate with piles of cabbages and buckets of olives…

So here are some of the results:





There’s something fascinating about the display of single commodities, even if they’re nominally identical (I mean, a potato is a potato, except when it’s being an Individual, right?):






And bulk goods are carefully arrayed too:







(and more to come)

Townscape in Göynük

We spent a few hours in Göynük, a small town that preserves Ottoman architecture and is built on the steep hillsides of a river valley.

Göynük hillside

Göynük hillside

Göynük architectural details

Göynük architectural details

Göynük architectural details

Many of the houses can only be reached by foot, via precipitous pathways that must be especially challenging in winter.

up and down in Göynük up and down in Göynük up and down in Göynük

Most houses have gardens, even if they’re just some soil in an empty tin or yogurt pail:

Göynük gardens Göynük gardens

Göynük gardens

Göynük architectural details

and some are more elaborate:
Göynük gardens

Göynük gardens Göynük gardens

It’s possible to see construction details in houses that await renovation

Göynük details


Göynük details

…but eventually entropy manifests:
Göynük details

There’s lots more to be said, of course, and quite a few more Göynük images, but I think I’ll get this one launched…

En Route

While considering the matter of just what I want to get out of the Turkish Adventure, and especially out of the photographic part, I started thinking about which photographers I especially admire, and/or which I think of as particularly important influences. My immediate shortlist, without consulting any of the many books in the house, began with Henri Cartier Bresson, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, August Sander and Paul Caponigro. Trying to identify just what common thread is found in those 5 led to the (obvious) observation that they worked in monochrome –in black and white, as we used to say (though greys might deserve mention too). And of course my own photographic aesthetic developed in that medium.

Thinking further, I realized that I’ve never had an intuitive sense for light, and especially for light in color. That’s what I’d like to work on, and it occurred to me that I could shift one of my iPhone camera apps over to B&W, and also set the Coolpix in that mode, and use those resources to explore some of what I encounter in Turkey.
Now, obviously one can post-process digital color as B&W, and I may well resort to that with some images, but I find it much easier to see the play of light in B&W. So I did these two images at home yesterday morning, just as a place to begin:



The day began at the Park’n’Fly hotel in Revere with a 5AM trip to Logan Airport to catch the flight to JFK. The images aren’t distinguished, but I’ll post them anyhow:



Things Turkish, number 1

I’m starting to accumulate and work with materials on Turkey in preparation for our September adventure, and this includes an effort to learn some Turkish, an exploration of basic facts of Turkish history, and reading of novels and other textual materials. I recently finished rereading Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House, set in Istanbul and full of interesting connections to Turkey’s past and present, and it’s time to read Orhan Pamuk’s novels too. A while ago I got The Innocence of Objects, Pamuk’s telling of the tale of his creation of his literal museum (in an old house in Çukurcuma) to accompany his novel Museum of Innocence, and I’m amazed at the project. Here’s a bit of description:

I kept seeking out more small museums in my travels. What I found most enthralling was the way in which objects emoted from the kitchens, bedrooms, and dinner tables where they had once been utilized would come together to form a new texture, and unintentionally striking web of relationships. I realized that when arranged with love and care, objects in the museum –an odd photograph, a bottle opener, a picture of a boat, a coffee cup, a postcard– could attain a much greater significance than they had before. I had top put these strange photographs and used objects on my desk and reimagine them as pieces belonging to the lives of real people.

The more I looked at the objects on my desk next to my notebook –rusty keys, candy boxes, pliers, and lighters– the more I felt as if they were communicating with one another. Their ending up in this place after being uprooted from the places they used to belong to and separated from the people whose lives they were once a part of –their loneliness, in a word– aroused in me the shamanic belief that objects too have spirits.

When I found a particular object in a shop and realized, with a sudden burst of inspiration, that I might be able to weave it into my story, I would immediately buy it; and, on my way back to my studio,I would be happy. Most of the time, though, I couldn’t find anything that I felt would fit into my novel in the making, and I left empty-handed. And sometimes I would buy something simply because I found it pretty, interesting, or unusual. The I would place it on my desk, believing optimistically that its role in Kemal and Füsun’s story would simply come to me unbidden. (pp 51-52)

Bits of the book resonate with other aspects of my life and doings, which I suppose is what one expects in influential books. Here’s one that encapsulates what I think about photographic composition and aesthetics:

Looking at the photographs we took during the process [of making a museum layout], I realized that I was doing what the Istanbul landscape painters I so admire also did: looking for an accidental beauty in the convergence of trees, electrical cable and pylons, ships, clouds, objects, and people. The greatest happiness is when the eye discovers beauty where neither the mind conceived of nor the hand intended any. (103)

Palimpsestical urbanism

Via Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House I’m enjoying an immersion in Istanbul, an Istanbul of not-so-distant future, replete with realized nanotechnologies. Several times I’ve almost gotten to copying out redolent passages, but this one tickled various bits of the mental spiderweb and tipped me over the edge:

Urbomancer. City witch… [she] discovered that a better living could be made just walking the city’s streets charting mental maps, recording how history was attracted to certain locations in layer upon layer of impacted lives in a cartography of meaning; delineating a spiritual geography of many gods and theisms; compiling an encyclopedia of how space had shaped mind and mind had shaped space through three thousand years of the Queen of Cities. Hers was a walking discipline, like the practices of the peripatetic dervishes. It proceeded at the speed of footsteps, which is the speed of history, and at that speed, on those long walks that are the science’s method, connections and correspondences appear. Strange symmetries appear between separated buildings as if some urban continental drift has taken place. Streets follow ancient, atavistic needs. Tramlines track ancient watercourses; the words of gods and emperors are spoken in stone. Human geographies, maps of the heart; fish markets far from the sea, districts in which trades have become fossilized, or die out in one generation only to return decades later. Subtle demarcations; odd transitions between restaurant cuisines: Aegean on this junction, Eastern down that alley. Cursed sites where no business has ever succeeded though a neighbor two doors down will flourish; addresses where if you live on one side of the street you are ten times more likely to be burgled than the other… (105-106)

…and in a Remarkable bit of Co-Incidence, along comes this blog posting on Tarlabaşi from David Hagerman, one of my favorite photographers (and see recent postings on FOOD in Istanbul at Robyn Eckhardt’s deliriously wonderful EatingAsia).