The Eye of Istanbul Has Closed
Cover photo: thenational.ae
The other day, at the age of 90, Ara Güler (Terteryan) – a legend of photojournalism and one of the symbols of Istanbul – passed away. He started his career at the beginning of the 90s of the 20th century and spread far beyond Turkey: he worked in such famous publishing houses as Life Time in the USA, Stern in Germany, Paris Match and Sunday Times in Great Britain. Ara Güler used to call himself a “visual historian”: he has made more than 800.000 photographs worldwide in his entire life. He has shot the greatest artists and politicians, including Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Sophia Loren, William Saroyan, Alfred Hitchcock, Winston Churchill and Indira Gandhi.
Ara Güler was born in 1928, Istanbul in a wealthy Armenian pharmacist family. His father, Tachat Terteryan, was from Shabin-Karahisar and escaped from the massacres of 1915 in Istanbul. It is in Istanbul that Tachat meets his future wife and mother of his child – Vergin Shahinyan, an Armenian from Istanbul.
Ara was born and grew up in a colorful city of Istanbul, was shooting the history and the culture of the city for 70 years and hence was nicknamed “the Eye of Istanbul”. As a Turkish-Armenian artist, who truly loved his roots and his hometown, he was a bridge between Turks and Armenians. Actually, Istanbul itself is a bridge between civilizations, between the West and the East.
Ara Güler has made a large number of photos in Western Armenia as well as in the Republic of Armenia. Thanks to his photos, the world discovered mount Nemrut with the statues of Armenian pagan gods and first saw the ark on mount Ararat: Ara specially flew in the helicopter to take its photos.
“The Armenian architectures are one of the oldest in the world. Their works are very aesthetic. Every time I look at them, my eyes fill up with tears.” (Ara Güler)
Ara Güler studied at the local “Gentronagan” (“Central”) Armenian high school and lived in Beyoğlu (Taksim), where the Armenian cemetery had been located earlier. In the 1930s, a law on surnames was passed in Turkey and the family changed the surname to Güler, which means “smiling”.
Ara Güler always mentioned that the main thing in his pictures was to find a contact. With inexplicable charm and enviable persistence, he could find that contact with everybody: after several unsuccessful attempts, he persuaded to take pictures of even the strange Salvador Dali and Alfred Hitchcock. Wayward Marc Chagall agreed only when he was informed that Güler had shot the Great Picasso. He spent four winter days at the door of Chaplin unless the latter gave up and let him in. It took Ara Güler a lot of time to meet with Saroyan.
Ara Güler loved life and tried to convey it as it is: “Art is a lie, while the photography conveys the reality” – the master stated. Perpetual motion is always present and dominant in his photographs.
The café Ara is one of the calling cards of Istanbul, where the city’s intellectuals and many tourists gather. Here, Ara Güler, the giant of world photography, loved to spend his time. It is sad to realize that we will never see his gray-haired silhouette at one of the tables again.
The farewell ceremony with Ara Güler was held on October 20 at Galatasaray Square in Istanbul. Numerous fans of art, Turkish politicians, as well as representatives of the Armenian community, including Archbishop Aram Ateshyan and politician Garo Paylan, came to bid farewell to the master. Güler’s favorite works were performed at the ceremony: “Dle Yaman” “Krunk” Komitas, “Sari Gelin”.
Ara Güler is buried in the Armenian cemetery of Shishli. It is noteworthy that the master’s grave was also sprinkled with the soil, specially brought from the homeland of his father, Shabin-Karahisar.
Translated by Manan Ajamyan