Ever on the lookout for how photography, especially photojournalism, penetrates contemporary art museum spaces, I was lucky to come across Istanbul Modern's exhibition on a retrospective of Turkey's celebrated photojournalist Ara Güler, (1928-2018). Yet another brilliant photographer I'd never heard of.
Running from May 29 - November 17, 2019, the exhibition titled “Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul” is a collaboration between Istanbul Modern and the Ara Güler Museum. Drawing on the collections and archives of both institutions it aimed to 'show the role of Ara Güler's photographs in shaping the public's collective memory of Istanbul and the changes that have taken place in the city from the mid-20th century to the present.'
"Cities are spaces where collective memory is shaped and continuously updated. Photographic records play an important role in this continuous update which takes place with every generation. As such, photographs impact and shape the collective memory that forms the city's identity. When it comes to Istanbul, Ara Güler’s photographs have made a very significant contribution to the construction of the public's collective imagination and memories of the city."
It wasn't entirely clear which images came from which archive and I would have loved to have seen his work in context and print, as 'pictures on a page', newspaper cuttings and the like, to have been able to cross reference the gallery setting with the historic context of his work (as was so beautiful done by Tate in Don McCullin's recently retrospective) - but all in all it was a fascinating revelation.
The works comprise photographs from different periods, all signed by Ara Güler, as well as various dark room prints, objects and ephemera from the archives of the Istanbul Modern Photography Collection and the Ara Güler Museum.