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The History Of Photography In Istanbul: The Life Story Of Ara Güler

Ara Güler is not only one of the most well known photographers of Turkey but also has a worldwide reputation for his captivating work. The Armenian-Turkish photographer is well known for his black and white images of different parts of İstanbul from the 1950s and 1960s. He is also known to be ‘the eye of Istanbul’. But what makes this photographer so special and what was his life story before becoming one of the most important photographers of Turkey?

The life story of Ara Güler is a tale that begins in 1928, in Istanbul, one of the cities of Turkey. In his early years, he was interested in cinema and took lessons from Muhsin Ertuğrul, a very important Turkish actor and director. His dream was to work in the cinema industry and become an actor or director. However, in 1950, he decided to start a career in journalism and started to work for the newspaper ‘Yeni İstanbul’ as a photojournalist while also studying economics at the University of İstanbul. He worked as a photojournalist for many well known newspapers around the world such as Time-Life, Paris Match and Stern. İn 1953, he met Henri Cartier Bresson and joined the Paris Magnum agency. He was named one of the best 7 photographers of the world by the British Journal of Photography. He also received many awards such as the Leica Master award in Germany. Güler’s work has been displayed in many of the world’s most prestigious art centers such as New York, London and Paris. His photographs are displayed in Cologne, in the Ludwig Museum and at Das İmaginare Photo-Museum. His photographic work could be found in the French National Library in Paris and in the Sheldon Collection at Nebraska University.

Güler viewed himself as a ‘visual historian’ and he believed that photography should provide a memory of people and of their lives. That is why he also saw photography as a reflection of reality and did not consider it to be a form of art.

Ara Güler often documented the misery of Turkey’s working class and the struggles of daily life.

In one of his photographs, titled ‘Children playing near the old citadel in Ankara, 1970’ a young girl is holding loaves of bread as if she is protecting them. The boy beside her, is looking directly in the lens, his mouth fixed on the barrel of a gun.

Ara Güler was a very important photographer not only in the history of photography in Turkey but also in the world. His philosophy about photography, the people and places he captured have made him a unique and interesting photographer.

Work Cited:

Image 1: Children playing near the old citadel in Ankara, 1970. Ara Güler

Image 2: Eyüp, İstanbul, 1950. Ara Güler

Image 3: In a cafe near Hazzopulo passage , Beyoğlu, Istanbul, 1966. Ara Güler

Ara Güler Accessed July 4, 2022

Wikipedia Ara Güler Accessed July 4, 2022

Photojournalist: The Life Story of Ara Guler Accessed July 5, 2022

What Ara Güler, "The Eye of Istanbul," Saw in His Homeland Accessed July 6, 2022



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