Spotlight: Photobook

Güle Güle: Documenting the changing faces of Istanbul

A Syrian refugee in Tarlabaşı, a neighbourhood in the Beyoğlu district in Istanbul. She lost both her parents during the war and was taken to Istanbul by some family friends, who now take care of her. All Images © Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni.

As part of an ongoing interest in cities on the brink of change, Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni’s images of everyday life cover subjects of migration, religion, and press freedom in Turkey's largest city

Güle Güle is the latest part of Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni’s ongoing commitment to documenting cities on the brink of change. Following on from projects made in Naples and Rome, the photobook looks at everyday life in Turkey’s capital, Istanbul, to explore subjects including migration, religion, and press freedom.

The artists explain that since the country’s current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party came into power in 2004, the country has started to shift both politically and culturally. The city is rapidly gentrifying, the government is enforcing stricter restrictions on the press, and international events that displaced millions of people, such as the Syrian civil war, have increased migration, changing the social fabric of the city. 

The prayer room of a Bosphorus ferry, which carries thousands people every day from the European side to the Asian side Istanbul, and are part of the city’s public transportation system.
Constantine is a young drag queen who performs in several underground clubs in Istanbul. Homosexuality is still a taboo subject in Turkey. On 20 August 2018 during the Turkish currency and debt crisis, the widely circulated pro-Erdogan paper Sabah reported that the US was planning to “drop gay bombs” on enemy countries that “will change the sexual preferences of that country’s population”.

Caimi and Piccinni first met in 2013 when they worked together on the production of Caimi’s first photobook, Daily Bread. Struck by their ability to collaborate so well, they decided to produce a documentary photography project — the beginning of a long-term collaboration. The pair went on to be published internationally by the likes of Time, Newsweek, Der Spiegel, and CNN, as well as producing personal documentary projects, including a photobook about an Italian neighbourhood terrorised by the mafia, and a revealing series about the fighters of the Maidan Revolution in Kiev, Ukraine

Made over the course of a month and named after the common words for goodbye in Turkish, Güle Güle is a vibrant and energetic journey through daily life in Istanbul. “We photographed with an unstoppable drive,” they say. “We were completely put on fire by the enormous energy that the place was expressing in this critical moment”. Caimi and Piccinni are currently crowdfunding to create a photobook of 125 images, organised into diptychs to form a continuous dialogue that mimics the instinctive way in which they travelled and photographed.

A young married couple board the boat where they celebrate their marriage. Boat wedding parties are a popular choice among young couples, especially for middle class immigrants people from countries like Armenia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tarlabası is one of the oldest and poorest neighbourhoods in Istanbul, where gentrification has deepened housing problems and increased poverty.

“The project is a result of our relationships with people and places, to penetrate the complexity of the city, its powerful energy and its changing and unstable nature,” they say. “In critical moments humans are able to express intense, contrasting, extreme feelings and passion. We’re deeply fascinated and moved by this, and want to attempt to replicate this with our images.”

Caimi and Piccinni are currently crowdfunding to publish Güle Güle.

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