CULTURE

Neighborly messages in postcards

Had it not been for the workshop of Turkish photographer Mehmet Ilhan Cevizli, Omer Turel and Kamil Ercument Atak would never have met. The former would continue to be one of Istanbul’s most successful surgeons and the latter would still be a resident of Istanbul at heart, with a Turkish name and a Greek mother, who has been earning a living as a photographer in Greece for the past 15 years. Yet that random encounter led to a great friendship which has overcome distance and sometimes also produced artistic results, such as the exhibition that opened recently at the Ligue Franco-Hellenique and runs to Saturday. Titled «Big Postcards from the Neighbor,» the exhibition features a selection of photographs that very consciously define the meaning of «postcard.» There are landscapes and images from a familiar Turkey, which border on tourist propaganda. Visitors can enjoy dazzling sunsets, captivating mosques, fascinating panoramic takes on well-known as well as unknown cities, colorful bazaars and dervishes. «We had to start somewhere,» said Turel, «but we wanted to make a calm and smooth start, without too many surprises. We didn’t want to scare anybody.» The initial idea had been to hold a joint exhibition, but lots of difficulties arose, such as that the two photographers (one of them a professional and the other an amateur) live in different countries. The process of selecting what was to be included in the album and what would have to be omitted might have taken longer than they could both afford. «We thought it would be better to do small, thematic exhibitions in Greece and Turkey, at the same time doing something that can take us beyond photography,» said Ercument Atak in impeccable Greek. «Politics will always be politics,» he added with a shrug. «It is the historical Turkey that interests people outside Turkey,» said Turel when I asked him if the image of Turkey seen in this display is the image that is more in demand abroad. He further explained that when asked to do a series of panoramic shots of Istanbul, he was taken to the 34th floor of a skyscraper. When he started taking photographs, the organizers were not happy because they found that there were too many skyscrapers on the horizon and that was not at all what they had in mind. The next step is very ambitious, since it will be part of the events program of 2010, when Istanbul will be European Capital of Culture. Kamil Ercument Atak will present photographs from Greece and Omer Turel photographs from Turkey, all of which will focus on archaeology. The exhibition will be accompanied by a recitation of C.P. Cavafy poetry as well as a display of works by a Greek and a Turkish artist. Archaeology – especially the ancient traces that can be found in modern cities – is one of Turel’s favorite subjects. «Both Istanbul and Athens are now big metropolitan centers; they don’t belong to their residents. Our cities no longer belong to us. What exists is the remains of the past, which of course belong to everybody.» Ligue Franco-Hellenique, 2 Kolonaki Sq, tel 210.360.6231.