The Life Story of Ara Guler, Who is Known as the Eye of Istanbul

We all have seen black and white photos of Istanbul telling different stories. However, we don't know well enough Ara Guler, the famous Turkish photojournalist behind these photos. Referred to as the Photographer of Istanbul or the Eye of Istanbul, Ara Guler died in October 2018. So, who is Ara Guler who died at the age of 90? What did Ara Guler do throughout his life? What are his achievements and story to start photography?



Ara Guler was born in Istanbul in warm mid-August in 1928. He wore many hats in the film studios during high school since he wanted to become a director or a scriptwriter.  He studied at the Private Getronagan Armenian High School.  He started working as a journalist for Yeni Istanbul Newspaper in 1950 while studying at the Faculty of Economics of Istanbul University.



After the magazines Time-Life, Paris-Match and Der Stern opened branches in Turkey in 1958, he was appointed as a photojournalist in these magazines.  He managed to become the head of photography department at Hayat Magazine in 1954. Henri Cartier Bresson, whom he met in 1953, provided him with the opportunity to join the staff of Magnum Agency in Paris. 



He was listed among the world's seven best photographers in Photography Annual Anthology published during these years. He became the only Turkish accepted to the American Society of Magazine Photographers. In 1961, he was recruited as the chief photographer by Hayat Magazine again.




His photographs were used in the books of several authors and displayed at different exhibitions in various countries during this period.  His works were displayed at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1968. With his works exhibited here under "10 Masters of Photography", the photographs of Ara Guler were then featured on the magazines such as Horizon, Life Time and Newsweek.



Ara Guler was sent to Kenya, New Guinea, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Borneo, Kazakhstan and various parts of Turkey as a photojournalist. In addition, the famous photojournalist managed to interview various artists and politicians such as Salvador Dali, Ansel Adams, Alfred Hitchcock, Willy Brandt, Maria Callas, Pablo Picasso and Winston Churchill in the 1970s.



He also directed the documentary "Kahramanin Sonu" (The End of the Hero). Ara Guler was initially called the "Photographer of Istanbul" with his photographs of Istanbul, and he said "They call me the photographer of Istanbul, but I am a photographer of the world."  Nevertheless, the famous photojournalist was still called the "Eye of Istanbul".




We can say that the philosophy of photography of Ara Guler was based on people. Attaching great importance to the human existence, Ara Guler shows the history and emotions of human beings in his photographs. The famous photojournalist believed that his photographs, which show people's sorrows, make people remember their lives. The photographs only show the existing reality and do not lie like art. This is why Ara Guler preferred to consider himself a photojournalist rather than an artist.

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  • Sandra Mullins
  • 21-01-2022

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