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Cihangir

C intro

 

For week two in Istanbul we’re ducking over the Golden Horn to a distinctly different world than the one we last visited. Cihangir (pronounced Gee-hang-ish), located in the Beyoğlu district, is the home of happy hipsters, intellectuals, Turkish celebrities and artists – well-off artists that is, who can afford the not inconsiderable rents.

Ten years ago the place was cheap. Then suddenly everyone realised that this was the perfect place to live – at one end, the entertainment district of Taksim, at the other, a ridiculously impressive view, stretching over the Bosphorus, across to Sultanahmet and down to the Sea of Mamara and beyond.

When the Istanbul Modern Art Museum sprouted at the bottom of the hill in 2004, it was a done deal. Cihangir was pronounced the ‘it’ suburb, rents sky-rocketed and the hipsters moved in.

A few facts before we roam. Named after a mosque that looks out over the incredible view which was in turn named after the son of Suleiman the Magnificent. It also means place of much stencil graffiti and cats, lots and lots of cats.

 

Part 1: ‘It’s where everyone wants to live’

So said someone we met on one of ours walk around the neighbourhood. While I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the statement, I suspect it’s quite true. Take Seval, for example, a woman we met while walking her English Setter at the local park last Sunday afternoon. While waiting to pick up doggie do, this is what she looks at…

 

Seval walkin the dog :: 1

just walking the dog :: 1

 

 

She lives just around the corner too. With a musician boyfriend. What more does a girl need?

 

 

Seval walkin the dog :: 2

just walking the dog :: 2

 

 

 

the Turkish mosque and the English Setter

the Turkish mosque and the English Setter

 

 

In Sydney terms, Cihangir is Potts Point glam mixed with Newtown grunge. While some of the European style apartment blocks are quite lovely, some are plain Janes. But all have nice steel framed doors. Who, I wondered, lives behind them?

 

 

definitely on the European side

definitely on the European side

 

 

 

she would probably live here

she would probably live here

 

 

 

surely he would live here

surely he would live here

 

 

 

he definitley lives here

he definitely lives here

 

 

 

before I made it big and moved to Nisantasi

before I made it big and moved to Nisantasi

 

 

Aside from great views and charming apartment blocks, the neighbourhood is blessed with some interesting second-hand shops, looking their best in the recent sunshine.

 

 

sun's out

sun's out

 

 

 

girlie

girlie

 

 

 

written by Goethe

written by Goethe

 

 

As with most of Istanbul, the women in Cihangir are a combination of bare-headed and scarfed. Aside from the lovely Tuba (pink scarf, second image below), those that cover their heads have been completely unwilling to be photographed. A reminder that as modern and western as Istanbul can feel, Turkey is still a thoroughly Muslim country.

 

 

living side by side

living side by side

 

 

 

you're scaring me

you're scaring me

 

 

 

Part 2: Cats

I’m a cat lover but the street cats of Cihangir are out of control. They are everywhere. But far from being treated as a nuisance, the local community looks after them, leaving bowls of water and food all around the place.

Still, I was really taken aback when I met Gulsum, a woman who runs a great local cafe called Kaktus. Not only can any cat wander into Kaktus and curl up wherever they wish, she has 60 of them living at her home. Sixty.

What’s also unusual about Gulsum are her facial tattoos. I keep my eye out for interesting tattoos but I’ve never seen any like these.

 

cat crazy Cihangir

cat crazy Cihangir

 

 

 

open door policy for any cat

open door policy for any cat

 

 

 

Gulsum lives with 60 cats - yes, sixty

Gulsum lives with 60 cats - yes, sixty

 

 

 

all the other blasted cats in this hood would disappear and I get all the fish

all the other blasted cats in this hood would disappear and I get all the fish

 

 

 

the winds of change in Cihangir

the winds of change are in Cihangir

 

 

 

Part 3: And yet

For all its alternative-ness and modern hipster ways, Cihangir hasn’t changed entirely. The call to prayer still bellows down the streets, summoning young and old to the local mosques five times a day. And the old fellas still hang out together, drinking strong tea out of tulip shaped glasses and chugging on endless cigarettes.

 

you must only wear socks when visiting a mosque

you must only wear socks when visiting a mosque

 

 

 

even hipsters have to pray

neighbours - the hip apartments and the mosques

 

 

There’s even an ancient Ottoman graveyard nestled between apartment blocks with the most interesting tombstones: you can tell the gender and rank of the deceased by the headdress. For example, men of high standing have turbans, lesser mortals, the fez. There weren’t any female tombstones but apparently you can tell how many children women had by the number of flowers decorating their graves.

 

 

tombstone hats

tombstone hats

 

 

 

nice turban

nice turban

 

 

 

280 year old flowers at Tophane Fountain vs day old

280 year old flowers at Tophane Fountain vs day old

 

 

 

We met Mr Handsome in the image below one morning and then ran into him again later that day. I call him that because I think he is handsome – but also because I have no idea of his name. I keep meaning to write a translation down, asking people for their name.

 

 

 

I'm sure he has, many times

I'm sure he has, many times

 

 

 

hanging out :: 1

hanging out :: 1

 

 

 

hanging out :: 2

hanging out :: 2

 

 

 

the old man and the ballerina

the old man and the ballerina

 

 

 

Part 4: Down to the water

I have two rules with this project. Stick to one suburb a week and avoid anything remotely touristy or iconic.

This week I broke both. Couldn’t help it. I started out as usual, documenting ordinary life in Cihangir. Then before I knew it I was drawn down the hill to the water’s edge, ending up at the Galata Bridge in Karakoy, a ten minute walk away.

I knew I was in dangerous territory when every second person seemed to be wearing a camera around their neck. Tourists. Eew.

I blame those views from the dog park in Cihangir – they made me hungry for more – as well as famous Turkish photographer, Ara Guler. I’ve been pouring over Guler’s images ever since we arrived in Istanbul and I particularly like his black and whites of life around the Golden Horn in the 1950s and 60s.

So to start with, three black and white images of my own…

 

the fisherman in the pinstripe suit

the fisherman in the pinstripe suit

 

 

 

and his mate, throwing a line

and his mate, throwing a line

 

 

 

catching a taxi home

catching a taxi home

 

 

 

fishing on Galata Bridge

fishing on Galata Bridge

 

 

 

kiss me you fool

kiss me you fool

 

 

 

three men

three men

 

 

 

one man

soaking up the sun

 

 

 

Salmon or Sea Bass?

Salmon or Sea Bass?

 

 

 

nuts for the ferry ride home

nuts for the ferry ride home

 

 

 

sky alive

sky alive

 

 

 

eyes the colour of the Turkish sky

eyes the colour of the heavens

 

 

 

the sacred and the suburban - minarets and street lights

the sacred and the suburban - minarets and street lights

 

 

 

saying prayers to get closer to God - or just not miss the ferry

saying prayers to get closer to God - or just not miss the ferry

 

 

 

The Wrap

It was so interesting to see a neighbourhood like Cihangir after last week’s living museum. Yet as modern-western and alternative as it is, the place is still so old Istanbul. I hope it continues to retain the old, especially those amazing tombstones.

And look, I apologise for sneaking in a little of the famous stuff. This project is all about capturing the ‘unphotographed’ but that view over the Golden Horn must have been snapped a zillion times. Hopefully I’ve got it out of my system and I’ll be back to my usual suburban self next week.

 

Coco's fifth hug for the day

Coco's fifth hug for the day

 

 

On the ‘home front’

It’s been an intense few weeks, the first time on the journey that it’s just been Coco and I; in Hong Kong we had friends and a ‘babysitter’, in India, family and a slew of home help.

Now it’s just us.

But it’s not the 24/7 glued-at-the-hip part that’s challenging. It’s the fact that I have no option but to take Coco with me every time I go out photographing.

It’s tough for both of us. I vacillate between thinking, what a great experience for Coco and, poor Coco, being dragged around for hours on end (and constantly hugged and cheek-pinched by well-meaning Turkish men!).

And for me, it can be very frustrating. I can’t move around so quickly. And I can’t stand still for too long either; sometimes photography is all about waiting, hanging on a street corner for an hour because the light is good or you like a particular background. You can’t do that when you’re with someone, especially a child.

It’s something I thought long and hard about of course when I was planning the trip. But until now I haven’t had to deal with it. All credit to Coco, she’s incredibly flexible and patient, but it’s definitely an issue that I need to find a solution for sooner rather than later.

Of course the upside is that yes, we are sharing a wonderful adventure. I just hope Coco remembers it like that.

This suburb has been brought to you by Karla Headon

See you next week.

 

  1. Peter McConnochie says:

    A superb suburb – amazing images and a fab write up! It never fails to amaze me how brave you are heading out there with Coco, we have 4 kids and the older 3 all groan when I head out anywhere with my camera so I have to roll solo at the moment!!
    Keep going – loving every week!

  2. Louise says:

    Peter – Thanks for saying, nice to know someone understands my pain! Unless you’ve ever tried to go out and take photographs for a whole day with a kid in tow, it’s difficult to appreciate how tricky it can be. Solo is good!

  3. Suey says:

    oh louise I want to be wandering around those second hand shops. Loving Istanbul. x

  4. Dev says:

    Awesome stuff! Love your project, and have been following your work since the original 52 Suburbs days. Regarding Coco – why don’t you get him a camera and encourage him to join you with his own project? It would be very interesting to see a few shots from him alongside your own photos for the suburbs you two visit together.

  5. Dev says:

    Sorry I just realized I referred to your daughter as “him” throughout that whole comment. Doh!

  6. Di says:

    Your Mr Handsome was not only that, but stylish as well!!
    I’ve loved the post this week Lou, great images and lovely light and I love your comments too!! You seem a little happier as well?
    Cant wait till next week now!!
    Di x

  7. Vanessa says:

    Incredible insights! I particularly love your photo of the white ‘fantasising’ cat – spectacular lighting.

    It sounds like that it’s a lot of hard work to capture and present these moments, but the work really does pay off. You and Coco must make a great team because every image is beautiful and you can really tell that it didn’t just pop up from nowhere – they’ve all been hand selected and have had a lot of TLC.

  8. ALison MUdie says:

    Great work Louise! I have sent this link to an epic instagrammer @astrodub . She has over 80000 followers and takes shots of streetart mainly. I figured she would love your juxtaposing grafitti with portraits and the urban lancscape (I sure do). If you do have a look at IG, take a minute to look at @alipoppa (that’s me!)

    Alison

  9. John Ellis says:

    43 years since I hitchhiked back from Istanbul to UK. What a wonderful memory-kickstarter.

  10. Louise says:

    Suey – You’d love them!
    Dev – Coco does have her own camera but only occasionally uses it. But you’re right, it would be interesting to see our take on the world, side by side.
    Di – I am happy! Despite the challenges, I’m loving it all. How could I not? Have I sounded less than happy before?!
    Vanessa – Thanks so much. Finding ‘partners’ for my diptych images means I do need to take a lot of shots. And even if I didn’t do that, to take a great shot requires so much time, patience, luck, skill etc. But I’m driven to do it and absolutely love it so it’s not a chore. Just challenging with a child in tow.
    Alison – Instagram is fun. Will check her out – and you too!
    John – I was going to say, the city must have changed so much since then. But actually the skylines looking both ways over the Golden Horn would be pretty much the same – thanks to laws forbidding building anything tall around there. Glad I could facilitate the walk down memory lane for you.

  11. Kalinda says:

    Oh Louise it all looks fantastic. I visited that suburb when we were in Istanbul 100 years ago (or so it seems). My memory was that there was a great restaurant on top of a hill…. Anyway have fun – I am living vicariously!

  12. Norm says:

    I subscribe to many blogs etc. but yours is the one I always go to upon receiving. Thanks for taking me/us with you with your words and photos. Me thinks that Coco will cherish these times more than you think. Thanks

  13. bronnie beede says:

    Love that B&W one of the fisherman throwing out his line!!! Can I have that one for my sponsor print? (Can we choose?) And I also loved the 3 building-curves-tiles-matching-people ones. And YES, he is definitely handsome! hahaha

  14. Natalie says:

    wow how strange! – yes you’re right, this suburb is definitely more Potts Point meets Newtown- my memories of Sydney are a bit fuzzy, and I didn’t spend much time in Cihangir, only about half an hour with an unwell mother. You certainly saw more of it that I did – and great photos too as usual! Shame you’re not going to photograph London :(

  15. szaza says:

    I love your post! So happy you enjoyed Istanbul.
    I have been debating whether or not to mention this, because I appreciate your photographic investigation of this fair city so much, but… Cihangir is not a suburb. It’s actually in the heart of downtown Istanbul. Cihangir’s just a quieter part of the bustling Beyoglu district.

  16. Louise says:

    Kalinda – Vicarious living is good!

    Norm – So glad my words and images transport you. And thanks, I hope you’re right about Coco.

    bronnie beede – I’ll probably have to limit the images I print for sponsors to about three. Sorry!

    Natalie – Your poor mum. And I’m sorry about leaving London out. There are so many cities I’d love to include – maybe in the next project!

    Szaza – I use the word ‘suburb’ to mean a neighbourhood, as in a distinct area where people live and there’s a community feel etc. My project is a follow up to a Sydney project I did where I explored the ‘suburbs’ (because that’s how the city is divided up, rather than into districts like Istanbul). So I know Cihangir is not technically called a suburb – but in everything I’ve read, Cihangir is described as a ‘neighbourhood’- which to me is the same as a ‘suburb’. Just semantics really. I should add, the apartment I’ve rented for the month is between Taksim and Cihangir, and the area looks and feels completely residential and has a very neighbourhood feel about it – nothing but low rise apartment blocks and the corner shop. So when you say it’s in the heart of ‘downtown’, that to me, and most Australians, means skyscrapers, huge department stores etc – which Taksim doesn’t seem to be. Again, semantics. Hope all that makes sense.

  17. a&b says:

    such a strikingly beautiful photo-mash up! really give you a sense of the suburb!

  18. Gaylee says:

    Louise hello. Oh man this is all so fantastic.
    Just like Kalinda…hello Kalinda!…the trip you’re having when you’re not having a trip.!!!
    If Coco is anything like you Louisaaa, and I’m sure she is in many ways, she’ll remember and cherish those memories, just as you did with your travels with your parents. Stick with the plan, if you can! Hugs.

  19. Louise says:

    A&B – That’s great, that’s my aim – to give that sense, to transport you there, without the ticket!

    Gaylee – Thanks so much lovely! So glad you’re enjoying it. I think Coco is more of a homebody than I am but she does love meeting new people and exploring so she should hopefully get a lot out of it.

  20. Nicole says:

    You went there! Awesome :-) So lovely. I’m catching up on the past few weeks … you have made me want to go to Istanbul even more!

  21. lisa says:

    Thanks for this fabulous post! We just arrived in Istanbul — will be staying in Cihangir for the next month, and I found your blog when I looked up “cihangir cats” to see if all of Istanbul was like this, or just here. ;) It was good to read your impression of the neighborhood, since we haven’t yet seen any of the rest of the city!

    satsumabug.com

    • Louise says:

      Lisa – Love those cats! All zillion of them. And enjoy this most wonderful of cities.

  22. Franz says:

    Louise, you brought Cihangir to life. I came across your site when considering staying in the Cihangir n’hood. Your site gives me a better sense of the people and place than any travel site. Do you have any opinion on staying in Cihangir vs. Galata? Now I am going to check out the other suburbs on your website. Thanks.

    • Louise says:

      I didn’t really explore Galata so I can’t help there I’m afraid. I know Cihangir is considered the pick of places – but then there would be other great ones too. It’s Istanbul after all! Are you moving there to work? I’m curious how foreigners make the move there with visas, work etc

  23. Franz says:

    We are just planning a visit to Istanbul later this Spring. We do not have plans or an opportunity to work there. If what I am hearing from you and others, we will be seduced by her charms. If this is true, perhaps Istanbul would be added to our short list of dream retirement places.

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