Kemal’s Istanbul

Here’s a fairly dreadful photo of Kemal Nuraydin, who took me on a tour of the workshops around the Grand Bazaar today. Kemal is on the right.

It was a long day, easily nine hours. For various reasons I arrived with just one lens, a 100 mm macro, suitable for closeups and portraits, not exactly optimal for today. Kemal showed me how to make the most of the lens and basically kicked my butt until I became reasonably comfortable using it in manual mode. Until today I had used manual, but in a kind of cheater mode, where the settings were suitable for most situations.

You won’t see any fancy camera shots. However I will show you a random assortment of cell phone pictures. In no particular order and with no claim that this is a complete summary of the day’s events, have a peek at my day.

15 thoughts on “Kemal’s Istanbul

    1. It was all about the photos. Did I go there to have Kemal show me things I didn’t know about a camera I have owned for years or to have him pick it up and instantly start taking better photos than I ever will? Well, yeah, I figured that would happen.

      But no, nobody I visited was there to sell. They were stamping silver to be used to back mirrors or making products for Middle Eastern taste.

      There are people who make beautiful things for Western tastes — and no, I haven’t bought from all of them yet, though not for want of trying. However they don’t usually do production in Istanbul.

      Many of the more Western-facing companies emphasize artisanal production out in the countryside. I have gone to photograph them, but obviously it’s more difficult.


  1. Lynn

    Interesting pictures – I especially like the first picture after the intro text (3rd picture) of the man viewed through the press (or whatever that machine is).

    Thanks for sharing!

    GMN >


    1. Those workshops are like a step back in time. Huge steel presses that wouldn’t know what to do with a computer, coal-fired smelters, it’s all pretty amazing.


  2. Fascinating to see the equipment and conditions these men work under, probably virtually unchanged for many years. Guessing health and safety is a non-issue. I am assuming there are no female metal workers?


    1. Female workers? You asked that to get me to write « hohoho » at Christmas time, right? i did see women working in Jennifer’s office, in shops and the like. In the hans, no, I didn’t see one.

      It’s not just sexism. The men that I photographed do not have full-time jobs. They work when an order comes in, which could be as little as a couple of days a month. They were happy to chat with Kemal, pose for photos and the like because they really didn’t have much else to do. Notice that none of these men are really young. True, women would have a harder time than men at getting hired for these dirty, carcinogenic jobs, but given that a man’s chances are currently at zero, that’s not saying much.

      Why do you ask?


      1. Sad to hear of craftsmen having to eke out a living in a tough economy with the political winds of change blowing who knows where. I was just curious to know if previously “reserved” occupations were opening up in the Old World too. I have been really struck lately by just how many young women I meet working as welders, mechanics, plumbers, crane operators, silversmiths, firemen, pretty well any job that would still have been unimaginable for a female when I was their age. This week culminated in meeting my new blacksmith who is a former combat nurse. As the song says “It’s a wonderful world.”
        Happy Holidays to you and yours.


        1. I guess I’m over it. I always worked in traditionally male fields, so sexism is something I see and have experienced, but kind of brush off.

          I wanted my photos to emphasize the dignity and quiet decency of these men. Some live in true Dickensian poverty, and nonetheless welcomed their old friend Kemal, who was fresh back from Indonesia, I think, and about to leave for Chile. They will never see those places. What is more, he showed up with some American woman carrying a camera worth what they make in six months, these days. I saw not a shred of resentment.

          The only political statement I heard was from a guy who said he couldn’r understand why our political leaders try to make us enemies, when we are all just people, pretty much the same. I couldn’t possibly put it better.


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