On Location Five photographic highlights of Istanbul
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On Location: Five photographic highlights of Istanbul

Istanbul-based editor Merve Arkunlar picks out some of the city’s best spaces to enjoy photography

I have lived in the Kadıköy neighbourhood of Istanbul for 30 years; it is a beautiful, mesmerising city. It is also a place of constant change and where the duality of the East and West maintains its tension. I started to make a visual diary of the city in 2007. By collecting postcards, photobooks and encyclopaedias, I realised that I was living in a city of treasures. 

Shortly after graduating I worked at a private museum, where capturing images of the city was a large part of my job. It was a great experience but, in some ways, disappointing to witness how little progress was being made to expand the art world. There seemed to be a lack of enthusiasm for building new opportunities with the art and culture scene heavily reliant on private sector donations and support. Government funding is allocated only for ‘a certain type of culture’, pertaining to traditional forms of thought and production. In 2010, Istanbul was voted European Capital of Culture and hosted several multidisciplinary events and international collaborations. Cultural life was vivid, packed with new gallery openings and initiatives – a melting pot of diverse structures and artistic hubs.

The city’s multicultural heritage and diverse demographic remain strong. However, urban gentrification threatens Istanbul’s traditions, culture and local life. In the last 20 years, a number of remarkable places from my visual diary have vanished or lost their connection with culture and arts. Some artists have moved away, but many have kept the faith, contributing to a photography scene that is more productive than ever.

Today, there are many promising independent photographic spaces, focused on developing photography, publishing, documentation and print. Here, we round up five of the city’s best spaces for photography. 

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