From the founding of the Ottoman Empire, in 1299, to the
current negotiations to accede to the European Union, the
country we know as Turkey has had a complicated history.
“There are different interests in play in Turkey, from
secularism and Islamism to the traditional and the modern,
as well as between democracy and repression—often in
unlikely and contradictory combinations,” the photographer George Georgiou explains.
“It is these contradictions my work addresses and the
complexities of a large country that was a former imperial
empire searching for a modern identity.” Georgiou’s work
on Turkey, where he moved in 2003, first came to my
attention at the Open Society Institute, when it was selected
for Moving Walls.
It began with an idea of divided communities, something
Georgiou had explored in previous work on Serbia and Kosovo.
“I wanted to move the project away from the idea of conflict to
that of a nation caught between ideologies,” Georgiou writes.
“Turkey is caught between East and West in terms of Europe
and the Middle East, and I was interested in Turkey’s role in this
dynamic. Often the approach photographers take to Turkey is
exotic and ‘orientalist,’ fairly narrow and reinforcing a sense of
the ‘other.’ I really wanted to make a contemporary story
Though the book opens with a map of Turkey and a timeline
of the country’s history, the next hundred and thirty pages are
devoted to photographs alone (captions are relegated to the final
pages of the book, and there is no text by Georgiou or others).
It seems that Georgiou wants us to just spend time looking, to
see the contemporary Turkey that he discovered.
Here’s a selection to get you started.
Slide 1 of 9
In the cover image for the book, a woman cycles past a Turkish
fighter jet mounted by the seafront in Mersin, commemorating
the invasion of Cyprus.
“Turkey is undergoing huge change and a lot of the work is
aboutthat change. The changes are many: economic, social,
political—and the landscape,” Georgiou writes in an e-mail
from Ukraine,where he’s finishing another book,
In the shadow of the Bear,about that country and Georgia.