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Ara Güler Museum: Portrayal of Photography

August 16th marks the eighty-fifth anniversary of Ara Güler’s birth, the renowned Turkish- Armenian photographer and journalist. He managed to usher in a new epoch and always remained ahead of his time until he passed away on October 17th, 2018. The photographer unexceptionally made the human figure a prominent aspect of his projects. He acknowledged that the existence of a society heavily relies on the recognition and value given to the individual. In addition to his authentic personal work, he collaborated with many productive minds of his time. These bright conservations matured into sincere friendships, given his affectionate nature. The museum dedicated to his name opened to the public in 2018, just a couple of months before his death, as the winner of an architectural design competition. The winning entry aims to celebrate his philosophical perspective, deriving from his quote: “There is no human without love, no photography without human.” Only a limited portion of his work is available on display at present, reflecting his understanding of the art culture. Now we shall highlight an anthology of his exhibited work in the context of this article.

“They’re not just ordinary people photographed by me.” he used to say. “..they built up my whole world.” Güler intertwined with his work. Neither does he leave his camera nor it leaves him. Sabahattin Eyüboğlu's room in Bronz Apartment, Fikret Adil's house, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu's workshop in Narmanlı Han, Yeditepe Magazine's administrative office in Cağaloğlu, Samim Kocagöz's house in İzmir, every possible location aroused his enthusiasm.

Here portrays Corner Cafe in Hazzopulo Passage, Beyoğlu in 1966. This piece is known as one of the most spectacular photographs of Güler. It opens a little portal between today’s world and the people of those times. The passage mentioned had been located in front of his father’s pharmacy store, which means he often visited. The fact Ara Güler has a lot of knowledge about the location makes the piece more notable.


Here portrays the return of Kumkapı fishermen to the port-side, in 1950. This photo- interview reveals the daily routines of the fishermen there. We encounter a village where people scramble for a living, according to Güler’s point of view.

The photographer is a precursor of not only photo reportage but also photojournalism, which is the narration of newsworthy events through visuals. His inspiration for this is his father, Henri Cartier Bresson. Both photographers’ essential goal was to enlighten the opinion poll by creating a collective consciousness for wide-ranging events. So, their pieces are equal to communal documents. Perhaps that’s why he always calls himself a photojournalist, however, never a photographer.

Another piece of information that will be included if specified is composition. He had to wait for hours to catch the exact footage. He never made an expectation of taking more than one frame from the same angle, even floundered to decide on the most precious one in terms of technique and emotion.


One of the shots in which he reflects on his obsession with the work is Noah's Ark, as shown on the left. Ara Güler was keen on solidifying the untouched complexion of the unknown. He was the first photographer to photograph and announce the silhouette of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat, referred to in both the Qur'an and the Bible.


Güler was perhaps satisfied, however, it didn’t prevent him from being the one who discovered the ancient city of Aphrodisias as well. The year is 1958. Güler went to the region for the opening of a dam in Aydın's Geyre town and completely loses his way. While passing through the village, the Roman period artifacts induced his relevance which was followed by his taking many colored, black, and white photographs.

A little while after returning to Istanbul, he conducted research on the region. He sent the photos to the Times magazine. The photos, which are also in the world press, made an enormous impression. American archaeologists went to the region to conduct an investigation themselves right away. Thus, the ancient city of Aphrodisias, named after Aphrodite, was brought to light.

Ara Güler recently passed away from this world. Fortunately, he left unforgettable work behind.

Works cited:

Mimarlık ve Tasarım Yayın Platformu, Ara Güler Müzesi - Bomontiada

Edited by:

Bilge Öztürk and Yağmur Ece Nisanoğlu


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