Written by Zeynep Yeğiner

Ara Güler narrating that gap we call life which gained a place for itself between birth and death with its most realistic face, is not just an asset for these lands but also for world photography.

Before us is half a century old memory in which the unheard and unseen corners of City of Istanbul that set its heart on two continents, the human portraits survived in its heart are immortalized. Innocent joy of children playing on streets paved with cobblestones, the fishermen casting their lines from Galata Bridge with hands chapped because of
the cold become more than just photographs in his frame. Although he resents those who call him an artist, he is a most prominent photography artist in this geography. Yes, we are talking about the old boy Ara Güler.

He is a person who takes photographs that narrate a period, who forms sentences with his photographs. He explains us Istanbul, Turkey and the world with his photographic sentences. Numerous events have been organized, books have been written and exhibitions have opened in Turkey and the world to pay tribute to him. Recently the panel
“Understanding Ara” was organized as part of Fotoİstanbul. Hundreds of people attended the panel held for the master of photography. Güler who started his career as a journalist, worked with Henri Cartier- Bresson, a prominent figure in world of photography. Master who describes himself as a “photographer of moments”,
has photographed unapproachable leading figures throughout his career: Pablo Picasso, French General Charles
De Gaulle, İsmet İnönü, Bertrand Russell, Winston Churchill, Salvador Dali, Alfred Hitchcock, John Berger, Indira Gandhi and many more… Lately he has been in the news with his President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan photographs. Güler visited President’s mansion in Kısıklı and photographed Erdoğan together with his wife and grandchildren, and immortalized these blissful moments. Ara Güler’s view of life and his works resemble a story between the past and our day… He crystallizes each object in his photographs with the memories attached. He both affirms his existence through photography and represents our culture and history by what he sees in his visor. As a photographer who has been to war four times, he does not allow the period he lives in, human conditions,
poverty and problems to perish. And of course there is the matter of Istanbul…

Ara Güler is a major asset for this country. However there must be an utterly different way to appreciate Ara.
I think a new perspective is due instead of appreciating him exclusively with his photographs. His photographs must be viewed with curiosity from where he sees them, background of the subject, their depths and truth. On one side of
this two-dimensional perspective are his works and his photography approach, and those before Ara Güler, on the
other. Those in, behind the photograph, consumers and readers of photography… There is a job for everyone here. Ara Güler is our asset. This is why we must properly appreciate and get to know him. His works, his point of view should be assessed and he must earn the credit he deserves. He has received awards from world’s leading photography critics and has been decorated. However he states that he does not value the awards he has won abroad, and speaks as follows: “It pleases me when people of my home country appreciate my work, and bestow me with titles.” And we, as people fond of photography and Istanbul, wish that an Ara Güler Institute will be established, this master will be appreciated as a photographer and a human being, and will be a role model for future generations.

Coşkun Aral (Journalist)
I got acquainted with Ara Güler with his interviews published in Hayat magazine. When I moved to Istanbul around 10 years old, I tried really hard to contact him. Because there were several idols on my mind. Ara Güler is not just a photographer or a photography artist for me. He is a journalist, a reporter and a master who reveals the finest, most detailed fabric of these lands, the local, what is national and makes them universal… I have known him for almost 50 years. We always keep in touch and every time we get together, I learn something new from him. Besides being a photographer, Ara Güler is a good historian. For instance, when Yavuz Battleship was being disassembled, he was there to photograph every second of that process. We learn all about how Yavuz arrived in this country, who were
present when it bombed Sevastopol and Odessa, and what took place, thanks to him being a historian and a researcher. Ara Güler likes to discover the unknown. He sometimes brings to light some photographs of places we have never seen or heard of. Geography is essential in the destinations he visits. Because he desires to leave his trace on that geography which he believes to be a part of the universe, and at the same times to follow the traces left. Next to being a photographer, he must be acknowledged as a historian, a philosopher and an archaeologist. He
photographed the original locations of the  rocks in Aphrodisias, if you think about it. He photographed Medusa in Basilica Cistern and also documented its original site. He was the one to show us which rock stood above what on Mount Nemrut. He was the first to provide us with the silhouette of Noah’s Ark on Ağrı Mountain, referred to as Cudi in the ‘Holy Koran’ and Ararat in ‘The Bible’. He is the one and only in many instances. Before understanding
“man”, one must know about one’s own country, nearby geography, the world and must question, view man and homeland with the information acquired, and empathize. He is a humanbeing however he has it all with roots in every inch of Anatolia from Ottoman to Roman period. Ara Güler should live forever to tell us all he has learnt and seen…

Paul McMillen (Photographer)
In recent days, we were at the ‘Imagine Istanbul’ exhibition in Europalia International Art Festival organized in Brussels with Turkey as guest country, also featuring photographs by Ara Güler. This exhibition is significant particularly because there is a large Turkish community living there, and it features works reflecting the lost values and face of Istanbul. Exhibition was warmly welcomed and has received positive feedback which deeply moved me. We featured works by various artists so that Istanbul can be pictured. However, the exhibition revolves around Ara Güler. It is impossible to write a Istanbul history without Ara Güler’s photographs. It would be unsatisfactory. Even if we were to write it, the sentences would not suffice. He is a legacy himself, a considerable memory. He has
produced numerous works which can be considered historical ideas and legacies. However not many critiques have been written in the field of photography. Because a format for photography critics has still not been established. I think it is a shame that nobody writes about photography. There are more than 50 books written about Ara Güler but still no reviews. This is why there is nothing on photography theories, terminology or content. Photography is not a
self-proclaimed thing. Photograph is a total of the elements within and outside it. All these photographs become exciting in time. This is why a critical analysis should be made. This is why the real Ara Güler book is yet to be written. It is still unclear as to who will write this book, which institution will work on it or how it will be written. Who will carry out these tasks, who is a better writer, which opinions will be featured? There are numerous perspectives concerning the subject including anthropological, sociological perspectives and our intellectual history. Experts must write about all these. It is a shame that they have not done this. All photographers need a printed work featuring critiques and reviews on photography. I will strongly support such an endeavor.


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Zeynep Yeğiner

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