Now you have two reasons to visit Istanbul’s beautiful landmark the Galata Tower: to see the Golden Horn from high up above, and to experience the Istanbul of 60-70 years ago from the eyes of the late photography legend Ara Guler.
Unmissable with its Genoese architecture, the Galata Tower is in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, within walking distance from the end of Istiklal Street at Tunel. The tower, which offers breathtaking views of the Golden Horn, is a big tourist attraction in the city. It has recently been renovated by Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. And now, it is also the location of an Ara Guler exhibition.
Famed Armenian-Turkish photographer Ara Guler passed away a few years ago, on October 17, 2018 at the age of 90. He was well known for documenting Istanbul extensively, as well as photographing luminaries such as Pablo Picasso, Bill Brandt, Winston Churchill, Ismet Inonu, Indira Gandhi, Alfred Hitchcock and Salvador Dali.
The exhibition at the Galata Tower is on the third floor, a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ara Guler Museum. Visitors take an elevator to the sixth floor, walk up to see the sights and take souvenir photographs, before heading down the stairs to the exhibition.
TRT World spoke to the Director of the Ara Guler Archive and Research Center Umut Sulun. Sulun is responsible for the Ara Guler Museum located at Bomontiada, Bomonti, Istanbul, on the European side of Istanbul, about a 15-minute drive from the Galata Tower.
The museum at Bomontiada, Sisli opened on August 16, 2018, on the 90th birthday of Ara Guler. It is currently home to two exhibitions that can be visited free of charge: Inside the Same Dream, that combines quotations from Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar with Ara Guler photographs, as well as Lost Colours, an exhibition based on a book on Istanbul with colour photographs.
Sulun says Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry approached the museum to exhibit Ara Guler’s Istanbul photographs within the Galata Tower which was an appealing prospect. After the photos were chosen, the exhibition opened on Guler’s 93rd birthday.
“There are 75 black and white Istanbul photographs in the exhibition [on the third floor of the Galata Tower],” Sulun tells TRT World in an email. “The concept of the exhibition and the selection of the photos are thanks to the Ara Guler Archive and Research Center (AGAVAM).”
According to Sulun, the exhibition is the result of a collective effort, with teammates in AGAVAM working to put together various exhibitions and books.
Asked why the location of the Galata Tower was chosen to exhibit Ara Guler photos, Sulun says the historical peninsula and Pera is an important axis for Ara Guler’s photography – “and the Galata Tower is right in the middle of this axis.”
“It is very common to see Galata and right below it, Karakoy and Golden Horn streets or see the Galata Tower as a silhouette in many eras in Ara Guler’s photography. That’s why the Galata Tower and Ara Guler can easily be matched, they are very harmonious,” Sulun points out.
“We believe it’s important for the Galata Tower visitors to see today’s Istanbul and then observe the Istanbul of 60-70 years ago through the eyes of Ara Guler as an important point for them to see the richness of this town,” Sulun elaborates.
Because the photography of Ara Guler is only limited to one floor of the Galata Tower, it is not as extensive as his fans may have hoped. Still, it is a good introduction to this work with text commentary by the photographer himself accompanying the images.
The best way to honour Guler’s memory would be to visit the Galata Tower, take photos of Istanbul from the observation deck for posterity before stopping by his Istanbul exhibition, then hopping over to Bomontiada in the Sisli neighbourhood to visit the museum named after him, showcasing his work more extensively.
The entry fee to the Galata Tower is 100 TL (about $13), or with an audio guide 125 TL (about $18). Muzekart holders (one-year museum passes for Turkish residents) can enter free of charge.