Ara Guler started his career as a photographer when he joined a local Turkish newspaper called Yeni Istanbul in 1950. He has photographed many famous figures including Winston Churchill, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali in his storied career.

A file photo dated October 30, 2015 shows Turkey’s photography legend, Ara Guler, during a photo project in Istanbul, Turkey.
A file photo dated October 30, 2015 shows Turkey’s photography legend, Ara Guler, during a photo project in Istanbul, Turkey. (AA)

Legendary Turkish photographer Ara Guler died on Wednesday in Istanbul. He was 90 years old.

Guler suffered a heart attack and was taken to the intensive care unit of Florence Nightingale Hospital, where he breathed his last.

Dubbed "Eye of Istanbul", Guler rose to fame with his black-and-white portraits of the city.

Men walking through a fish market by the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey. (Ara Guler)
Men walking through a fish market by the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey. (Ara Guler) (Ara Guler)

Guler also photographed the likes of Winston Churchill, John Berger, Alfred Hitchcock, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso among many others.

Photographs of Salvador Dali (left), Winston Churchill (centre) and Pablo Picasso (right). (Ara Guler)
Photographs of Salvador Dali (left), Winston Churchill (centre) and Pablo Picasso (right). (Ara Guler) (Ara Guler)

He suffered from kidney failure and had to be taken for treatment three times a week.

"That dialysis makes me stupefied," he said in an interview with Anadolu Agency in 2015.

“I cannot do anything three days a week, it takes four hours each time, and it is unbearable.”

However, old age and illness did not stop him from pursuing his work.

In 2015, he took pictures of the ongoing construction of Istanbul’s third bridge on the Bosphorus.

A general view of the Golden Horn in Istanbul. (Ara Guler)
A general view of the Golden Horn in Istanbul. (Ara Guler) (Ara Guler)

His first steps

Guler belonged to a family of Turkish intellectuals.

His mother came from an Armenian family who owned several houses in Beyoglu, a neighbourhood in Istanbul.

Guler’s father was orphaned at six years old. He later became a pharmacist for the Turkish army at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915.

Using his father's connections, he landed his first job as an assistant film projector in one of Beyoglu's many theatres.

In his father’s drugstore, where theatre artists would regularly gather to buy make-up for plays, Guler met the founder of the modern Turkish theatre – Muhsin Ertugrul – and was even able to work with him.

Tramways are operating at Istanbul's famous Istiklal street in Beyoglu dustrict. (Ara Guler)
Tramways are operating at Istanbul's famous Istiklal street in Beyoglu dustrict. (Ara Guler) (Ara Guler)

“(Guler) always wanted to be a playwright,” wrote Nezih Tavlas in a 2003 biography on Guler titled “Photojournalist.”

At 22 years old, he received his first camera – a Rolleicord II. His career as a photographer kicked off when he joined a local newspaper called Yeni Istanbul in 1950.

Guler met world-renowned French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson – through his connection with Romeo Martinez, editor-in-chief of Camera magazine between 1956 and 1961 – and became a member of Magnum Photos, an international photography cooperative.

A photograph depicting two Arab men. (Ara Guler)
A photograph depicting two Arab men. (Ara Guler) (Ara Guler)

By the end of the 1950s, Guler worked for world-renowned magazines such as Time Life in the US, the French weekly Paris Match and Der Stern in Germany. He travelled all around the world, from Pakistan to Kenya and from New Guinea to Borneo.

In 1957, he was in France covering the Cannes Film Festival. He met legendary figures from the film industry including American filmmaker Orson Welles and Italian writer Alberto Moravia.

He was in Sudan in 1978 just before the second Eritrean civil war to report on clashes between rebel groups in the region. Just before the 1980 military coup in Turkey, Guler went to Mongolia – the Turks' homeland – to photograph eighth-century inscriptions. In 1990, he headed to Indonesia with his wife for a report on cannibal tribes.

A view of the landscape in Anatolia, Turkey. (Ara Guler)
A view of the landscape in Anatolia, Turkey. (Ara Guler) (Ara Guler)

But it was in Turkey that he made one of his most astounding discoveries: an ancient city called Aphrodisias in Turkey’s western province of Aydin in 1958. 

He found the city as he was returning from an assignment involving the inauguration of a dam. His driver got lost on the way, and he ended up in a village where locals used the city's ancient architecture as part of their daily life.

Guler was a well-known face in Istanbul. Even in his last months, he could regularly be seen at the outside tables of the cafe he owned – Ara Café – in central Istanbul. The cafe is adorned with his pictures.

In August, a photography museum in Istanbul opened in his name.

For some of his other photographs, visit his website.

Source: AA