Let me take you back in may 2013…
Now, get ready to be shaken, laugh out loud and and be deeply touched by the culture in Istanbul. All of that, exactly as I saw it with my own camera ! Click the next picture, then sit back and enjoy the next 5 minutes!
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All the pictures here
The cold winter is now a thing of the past, and the sun is shining on warm, beautiful days. I’m traveling all over Europe for different shoots. Since september 2012, I’ve been paying rent in Paris and New York as well, even though I haven’t inhabited the Big Apple more than three weeks in the last 8 months… It doesn’t make much sense now that I think of it, but I had initially planned returning to NYC every 2 weeks. However, I find comfort in thinking that life is good, and that I’m in Europe all the time precisely because I get booked for work so often.
Excellent news come my way towards the middle of the month : I’ve been booked in Istanbul in June ! I usually get to see a few exotic places per year, and it’s always a treat to get to work abroad in a new and unusual place.
Thursday, june 6th, 24 hours to departure
A fair amount of people have been killed and thousands more have been wounded by the police during important protests in Turkey, in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, to be exact. Images of terror are all over the media, showing the worst blood bath since the beginning of the Arab Spring. While those tragic events were unfolding, I was probably in a plane or rushing between sets. I had no idea of what was happening in Istanbul.
When I told a friend, all eager and happy, that I was boarding for Istanbul the next day, he immediately told me about the serious tensions between the government and the people of Turkey! Taking it in the way he put it, I started to think of that shoot as a dire* prospect, almost an overseas journey to my death :-/
I immediately contacted my agent, hoping he could get me better informed about the situation. He was already on it, waiting for an answer from the client on site. I finally had access to unbiased information that way, telling me that Istanbul was mostly safe. In truth, the riots were dangerous because of the police, but outside of Taksim Square, everything seemed to be normal enough. That information finally put my mind at ease, and I boarded for Istanbul the next day.
Once at the hotel, I was booked the suite, a little convenience that helped me forget about the riots! Don’t get me wrong, though, a suite in old Istanbul is not the same as a suite in Geneva… Anyway, an interesting detail about that perticular suite was its situation, on the highest floor, with a window in the cathedral ceiling, giving me unofficial access to the hotel’s roof
I couldn’t resist the invitation, so I climbed on the bed, jumped for the window frame, and pulled up to find myself on the roof, without shoes or shirt, but camera in hand!
That’s how I took this post’s picture
I finally managed to get back to my room but with a few scratches, and dirty enough feet that I left bunch of stains on my white bed sheets hahaha
After a quick shower, it was already bedtime. I was exhausted from my travels, jumping on planes across half the world. Relaxation didn’t come so easily though, the tension that came with working in close proximity to the riots was keeping me awake, and my mind was wandering, kind of anticipating that something might happen that night…
Well, something did happen after all. At about 4h50 am, I was suddenly pulled from my slumber by a deep, powerful voice. I had no idea what the voice was saying and what it meant, it felt like it was coming from every direction, as if there were speakers all over the city enabling it to claim every bit of air. As I was lying in bed, barely protected by the thin white sheet I was tucked under. My eyes were wide open, almost burning. I felt so paralysed I couldn’t even blink! I was stunned, waiting for a bomb to drop through that unfortunate ceiling window! What a nightmare! The only thing I could see through that hole in the building’s armor was a flight of white birds, illuminated by the city’s lamps, probably trying to flee from some terrible fate.
The voice was downright terrifying me, but at the same time, I was confused and couldn’t remember where I was! Although spooky, the voice had a mysterious and soothing tone, reminiscent of how Orwell described Big Brother’s in his masterpiece, 1984. Dazed, confused and dare I say even charmed, I would’ve almost accepted getting hit by a bomb at that moment, without fearing the outcome. After a few minutes, it finally came to a stop… It took some more time, but my heartbeat finally slowed down to a normal pace, and 45 minutes later, I was sleeping back.
Fast forward to Saturday night. The shooting went well, I’m dining with my friend Lino, who was working with me. Taking in all the food and culture we could, including a typical drink made of plain yogurt diluted with water. We can’t stop laughing as I recount how the religous chants terrified me the previous night… I felt so stupid hahaha
My returning flight was at 6h am, and at that point, it was almost midnight. My trip had been a bit uneventful until then, and I had hoped for a little more adventure… With those infamous riots in head, I suggested to Lino that we should go to Taksim Square and try to make sense of the situation by ourselves. However, the man at the hotel’s counter warned us that the police could mistake us for CIA agents and imprison us for life without trial, as they had already done in the past :-/
His warning cooled me down quite a bit, but I hadn’t travelled halfway across the world to stay in bed. Thus, we decided to sneak into Taksim Square to assess the situation!
We were walking up the crowded street when Lino suggested we should buy Guy Fawkes masks (V for Vendetta). He thought we could use them to hide our american faces! I thought it was a great idea
As a brief summary of what you’re about to see in the following video, here is what happened.
We didn’t need the masks after all. The police wasn’t there, and while the atmosphere was intense, it wasn’t in a spirit of anger or aggression. That feeling persisted even as we walked through wrecked police buses and burned civilian cars! We ultimately came back to the hotel at 3h30am, and I needed to leave at 4h30am to catch my plane :-/