Fidan Gasimova shares some beautiful photos of Istanbul, a city close to her heart, and explains what it is like to work with a film camera.
Where are these photos taken and what is your relationship with the place?
I spent 13 years living in Istanbul, and the city has an aura that, as of now, I have not experienced in any other city.
In my photos, I tried to capture the people and essence of the city. Instead of focusing on the attractions such as architecture, I tried to focus on what forms the soul of the city. When I was 14, I enrolled at Vefa Lycee, one of the historical high schools of the city. I lived on the Asian side of the city, but the school was on the European side. I usually travelled by bus, over the bridge, but on Fridays, school would end early, so I would get to cross back by the ferry—and as a 14 year old teenager, crossing the city, by ferry, by myself was one of the most exciting things I could be doing. It may seem silly, but to give you some scale: my travel one way took about 2 hours and I was navigating through a city of 14 million.
The industrial ships have always fascinated me, perhaps for the reason that they would sail from destinations as far away as China. They seemed like gigantic metal monsters. When I crossed back over on Fridays, I would often cross to Kadıköy, even though it was a longer ride home from there. I did it because I enjoyed the chaos of the place. The market and its smell of fish, the vegetables, the cold-brew coffee… and people everywhere. The most crowded places in the city that you will see are Taksim and Kadıköy. Most tourists have only seen Taksim, but I definitely prefer Kadıköy. As soon as you walk out you see people of all colors and occupations… clerks, musicians, lawyers, students, tattoo artists, everyone and everything. At a time when online shopping was not a thing and you needed a niche product, you would go to Kadıköy because you knew that it was the place where you could find literally everything.
Sahil Yolu is a place I used to spend a lot of time at as a child. It is a place for people to take walks and have some tea —or beer— at the end of their walk. It is that place where people go jogging, walk their dogs, and take their children to the park. On the other end you have the cyclists and skaters, among with the basketball players. Let us not forget the cats, crows and pigeons.
Anyone who has been to Istanbul knows how much people love the stray cats and dogs. If you are a stray animal in Istanbul, you never need to worry about being fed. I guess with the cats, I was trying to capture the tenderness of the nature of the relationship between these stray cats and the human dwellers of the city.
What is it like working with film?
For all these pictures, I used an Asahi Pentax MX, loaded with Fujicolor C200.
Film photography is a much more delicate matter than digital. I like the mechanical nature of it. My camera used to have a meter, but over time the meter stopped working, and that gave me more space to experiment. Working with color film meant paying attention to the lighting and colors. Sometimes I had to slightly underexpose or overexpose the images. Each shot had to be composed quite carefully before it was snapped—and considering that none of my participants were willing or knew that I was snapping pictures of them, I often spent a lot of time waiting before taking the shots. This is very different from the quick snaps of street photography we are used to doing today.