Ara Güler photo exhibition: A reflection on Istanbul the he got to know


Organized within the scope of ‘Turkish-European Association Intercultural Art Dialogues’ and the ‘Art and Life,’ Ara Güler’s exhibition opens in Brussels

 Armenian photographer Ara Güler’s exhibition, “Istanbul in My Memoirs,” has opened in Brussels as part of the Turkey-EU Intercultural Art Dialogues project. 

Curator Beste Gürsu said Güler photographed stories that will not be forgotten for generations. “Ara Güler depicts the colorful life and socio-cultural aspects of this giant metropolis, which is always observed carefully because of its cultural richness, artistic, economic, and strategic importance – through his own perspective with shots that offer an insight into history. What is often ignored in photos taken by Ara Güler is the documentary-like and also surrealistic manner of expression of the uncertainty that he is always in search of,” Gursu said. 

Güler is a master, who has witnessed a historic 80-year period in Turkish history. When talking about himself he says he considers himself lucky that events in his shots came across him at the right time. Describing the life an empty film roll given to the people, Güler advises us to try to fill each moment in an excellent manner that will guide us for many years.

Even though it is known that Güler has held hundreds of exhibitions of his work all over the world and published many books, memoirs of him in Istanbul have a different place for him. As he says: He is a part of Istanbul and he is searching for these parts in his photos. 

A phrase often ascribed to Istanbul is “A city through which a sea passes,” and this is enriched in the shots of Ara Güler in a chaotic environment that is melancholic, alone and transformed. As its name suggests, the exhibition consists of the selection of Istanbul photos taken between years 1950 and 1988, and represents the memories that have not been forgotten for a lifetime and contain different feelings as they are remembered. 

The effects of Istanbul in Güler’s works

In his childhood Güler was greatly influenced by the cinema. As a high-school student he worked at film studios in every branch of cinema. In 1951, he graduated from the Getronagan Armenian High School and then began training in theatre and acting under Muhsin Ertuğrul. He wanted to be either a director or a scriptwriter. At that time some of his stories were published in literary magazines and Armenian newspapers. 

He continued his education in the Faculty of Economics at Istanbul University. However, on deciding to become a photo-journalist, he dropped out of university and did his military service. He began a career in journalism with the newspaper Yeni İstanbul in 1950. He became a photojournalist for Time Life in 1956 and for Paris Match and Stern in 1958. Around the same time, he joined Magnum Agency. He did a feature on Noah’s Ark and over 100 of these photographs were distributed by Magnum Photos. 

In 1992, his photographs of the great architect Sinan’s works in Istanbul, which he had been preparing for many years, were published in France by Edition Arthaud and by Thames & Hudson in the U.S. and the U.K., under the title “Sinan: Architect During the Time of Suleiman the Magnificent.” He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Yıldız Technical University in 2004, the Presidential Culture and Arts Grand Award in 2005 and the Culture Award from the Arts of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2011.

The exhibition will be on display until Oct. 24 at the Permanent Delegation of the Turkish Republic to the European Union in Brussels. The third event as part of the “Turkish-European Association Intercultural Art Dialogues” series, which has been conceptualized within the scope of the “Art and Life” projects, will take place in the Turkish Republic’s European Union Permanent Representation Office in Brussels.



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