The favorite photos of Ara Güler

During a long interview in Istanbul, in February 2013, I asked Mr. Ara Güler to select some favorite photographs of his beloved city, to describe when he took them, what they represent and why they are precious to him. A few days after I arrived in Lisbon, he sent by email, through a common friend (Fatma Artunkal), three images and their heartfelt captions. Here they are:

@Ara Güler

© Ara Güler

Istanbul 1956

The ferry in this photograph is leaving Kandilli on the Bosphorus. In July 1994 I wrote a poem for the first edition of my book Eski Istanbul Anilari (“Memories of Old Istanbul“) and I liked that poem very much. Therefore, since the same photograph is the last in this book, I am repeating that poem in order to express the same love in the same way…


on one day or another 

in a beautiful sunset, 

the boat sailed, on the Bosphorus 

of old Istanbul

@Ara Güler

© Ara Güler


Two boatmen on the shore at the entrance to the Golden Horn, with Yeni Camii in the background, almost obscured by smoke from the ferries; who knows the topic of their conversation. Crowds pass across the old bridge and two birds fly over the Golden Horn.

In the distance can be heard the hum of the city, occasional hoots from the ferries and in the further distance the sound of car horns. This is the sound of Istanbul, the sound of a mystical spell, attracting and drawing you in; if you live in this city you will always hear it, because these are the sounds of our city.

@Ara Güler

© Ara Güler

Istanbul, 1956

That morning it suddenly began to snow. I was working at Hayat magazine. This was the first snow of the season. The editorial office said “it would be good to have a photograph of Istanbul in the snow”.

I took my camera and went down the Sirkeci hill. A snow photograph, but of what? I got on a tram, opened the window at the back and began looking for something. I was just thinking that there must surely be something around Sultanahmet, when I noticed that a man pulling a horse and cart with a tram coming up behind him would make a composition and I took advantage of the situation.

The result was that this photograph of the horse-drawn cart and the tramway got taken. This photograph is maybe one of the best photographs I possess. But unfortunately the negative got dirty and while I was cleaning it the negative disintegrated in the cleaning solution. That’s why there is no longer a negative of this photograph.

Ara Güler, master of photography died on October 17, 2018, aged 90
©Volka Ndogar

This article was originally published in the Portuguese literary magazine LER, March 2013 edition

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