What makes a work of art great? I feel explaining the merits of a masterpiece is anticlimactic, like explaining a joke. I’ve found that my response to any art I’ve enjoyed is an ‘aha’ feeling, an emotional resonance. If the resonance is there, all else is merely commentary. It is always easy, however, to find and list faults of imperfect and flawed works. As I’ve mentioned before, all these recent shots from Turkey are several years old. I can’t help but pick them apart now with my more experienced eye; this implies that I could do better now, which is a dubious proposition.
I’m not entirely unhappy with the lot of my Istanbul pictures. That said, they needed more editing than I’d care to admit; after you’ve cropped, adjusted contrast, and endlessly fiddled with the color, you’re left wondering if you’re just polishing a turd. As always, the final judgement lies with the reader.
This “castle” is actually a prestigious Greek school located in the Fener neighborhood of Istanbul. Its presence illustrates some unique aspects of the Greco-Turkish history of this this city. As Constantinople, it was the capital of a huge Greek empire for a thousand years. After it fell to the Turks in 1453, many Greeks stayed and continued their cultural and linguistic traditions. Ottoman rule was enlightened compared to medieval European counterparts, and cultural minorities were tolerated. Though the Red Castle itself was built in the late 19th century, the school itself dates to 1454, just a year after the Greek Byzantines’ fall.
The school, whose proper name is Phanar Greek Orthodox College, is built into a hill, and surrounded by a dense residential area. As a result, the castle alternately looms into view and disappears around corners as you approach. These shots were all taken the same clear January day.
As I mentioned a few months ago, I had found a trove of pictures from a trip to Istanbul which I had thought I’d lost. The task of editing them has been sporadic, so related posts have been random and occasional. The recent lull in fresh photo trips has given me a bit of time to catch up, so hopefully I can put up a few of the better shots now. Incidentally, this was the last trip I took with my old film camera. Given digital’s instant results (at least on a small LCD screen), I don’t miss the Schrodinger’s box aspect of film photography, where you are uncertain of your results until long after taking the shot. So maybe I’m deluding myself, but I found myself really enjoying the grain in these photos. The digital counterpart to grain, noise, seldom adds anything to a shot. But I will leave it to the viewer to decide whether the pictures below have a pleasing graininess, or are just tourist-level soft-focus snapshots.
These images are all from inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly called the Blue Mosque for the predominant color of Iznik tiles which decorate its interior. It was built in the early 17th century, partly to provide an Ottoman answer to the Hagia Sofia, a massive Byzantine church the victorious Turks converted to a mosque after capturing Istanbul (then called Constantinople, just like in the They Might Be Giants song) in 1453.
I’m kind of regretting not snagging that projector I saw in Emerson school, since I found this in Beckman school. At first I thought they were paints, but when I pulled the box out of the closet it was hiding in I saw that it was actually a collection of PSA films for class. Something today’s kids are not subjected to but (possibly out of some mild malice) I feel that they should be. Who didn’t love mocking these things?
Edited to add-
Turns out the are slide-show style films, a few should have records to go with them for soundtracks, but alas they are lost. I’ll be taking photos of some frames on a lightbox and posting them in a few weeks. In the meantime consider this:
Slideshow film strip,circa 1955 (a sampling):
“Junior High Graded Word Phrases.
“The words used in these film strips on phrases were selected from a study made on word count in leading basic readers and textbooks that are commonly used on the Junior High level [grade 7 and 8].
“To the students: …Think about what each phrase says. Your teacher will tell you how he wants you to tell him the phrase.” [I’m daring you all to use the last one in a coherent sentence]
“vital to the republic”
“followed the regiment”
“an accidental meeting”
“volunteer for services”
“a monstrous guillotine”
“was exceedingly cordial”
“to observe in propriety”
“request complete harmony”
“held in somber reverence”
“had undulating intentions”
Seriously, there are college level students that would be left googly eyed and drooling trying to participate in this exercise today.