Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, can be considered the city of opposites. Spirituality and worldliness, tradition and modernity, progress and a sense of nostalgia for what has been. Istanbul is the “meeting point” between Europe and Asia, geographically very close but sometimes really distant.
The beating heart of this city are surely people: many souls who give life to this metropolis. In the streets you can smell the aroma of tea which in Turkish is called “çay”. “Çay” is not only one of the traditional beverages of Istanbul, but it is also a pretext to encounter people and friends. The typical expression used to invite someone out is “Çaya gidelim”. In addition, in the colorful streets of Istanbul you may come across many places where you can try the “hookah” and its perfumed smokes. Besides the traditional side of the city, there is also a hidden side of Istanbul. Street art characterizes this city, that “underground side” recalls other European cities such as Berlin.
Spray paints, colorful graffiti over the walls and the strong smell of fresh colors give this beautiful city another connotation that goes beyond tradition. The most famous neighborhoods where street art is heavily present are “Kadıköy”, “Karaköy” and “Galata”.
We had the pleasure of meeting Irem and Schenki who guided us through these suggestive streets of Istanbul.
Irem is a street art photographer who defines herself as the “curator of an open-air art gallery”. She wants to keep and preserve this kind of art that is likely to disappear the day after its creation. Irem tells Istanbul from her point of view.
Hello Irem, when was your passion for street art photography born?
First of all I must say it’s such a thrill to be on the platform. My fondness for urban sociology dates back almost to my childhood, while my interest in documenting street art began in high school. I started my journey of street photography with amateur enthusiasm. I have been photographing all types of works such as stencils, stickers, murals, and graffiti that carry the traces of transformation into the public sphere since 2008.
I believe the real concern of street artists is to introduce meaning into their art to the masses. I see the streets as an open-air museum, thus myself as a kind of curator.
Can you keep paintings in the open air eternal with a click? What is street art for you?
As a photography artist, my interest in being on the observer’s side stems from a desire to archive works that risk not being able to survive the next morning and allow them to remain permanently, which they deserve, just like any other form of art. Street artworks are effective only when they are able to reach the audience. Otherwise, artists might as well just draw on their sketchbooks or so. I believe the real concern of street artists is to introduce meaning into their art to the masses. I see the streets as an open-air museum, thus myself as a kind of curator.
How does this underground art manage to tell the city of Istanbul?