Güle Güle

Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni

2018 - 2019

Güle Güle (goodbye in Turkish) is a photographic project focused on the city of Istanbul, a personal account about the profound changes happening in the city and within the Turkish society. It's the third chapter of our series about the cities in transition, following Naples and Rome.

We’re interested in places where deep political and social mutations create multiple parted microcosms. The exploration of these monadic realities represents the core around which our work develops. Cities combine the seduction of the “lieu”, expressed in open landscapes, secluded or domestic views and the power of humanity in a constant interaction. Photographs are the result of our multiple relationships with people and places, in order to penetrate the complexity of the city. We gradually got involved in different situations each characterized by unique and fascinating humanity and environment with peculiar visual traits.

When exposed to rapid mutations, communities reveal much of their intimate characters: frailties, passions and desires, hopes and fears. Gentrification and the critical situation of the poorer classes, the increasing discrimination of homosexuality, the massive migratory influx of Syrian refugees and the Kurdish community issue are just some of the realities behind the subjects portrayed in the work. Documenting marginalized communities is a revealing process, which allows to get in contact with the social substrate representing the actual human expression of each city, laying just beneath a more superficial and widely accepted social facade.

While still following a documentary approach, we however decided to leave on the background the informative and didactic content of the images to foster the immediacy of the pictures and an open ended narrative. The editing and sequencing of the photographs represents an important key of the work. Pictures taken in very different environments, connect each other to give access to scenarios otherwise unimaginable. Diptychs and the interaction of the photographs shed a new and unexpected light over the story, revealing its complexity and hidden layers. The approach in its entirety is an effective way to raise questions, while triggering the viewer inner panorama of experiences.

Güle Güle - the submitted work - won the 2019 Sony WPO Award in the “Discovery” category and was exhibited in London at the Somerset House. It was part of the main exhibition of the Warsaw Photo Days Festival and finalist at Voies Off screening nights. In February 2020 it will be featured at the Biennale Für Aktuelle Fotografie in Mannheim curated by David Campany and it’ll be part of the permanent collection of Fondazione Orestiadi in Gibellina (Sicily). The dummy book received multiple recognitions, among these it was Shortlisted at LUMA Rencontres in Arles, shortlisted at Photoboox Awards and received the special Mention at the Kassel Photobook Award. Güle Güle in March will become a book for André Frère Éditions.

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  • In Istanbul, air pollution has reached the highest level of the recent years, particularly in the districts of Yenibosna, Kadıköy and Esenyurt. The rate of air pollution has increased due to the effects of transportation, the use of coal and urban transformation.
    A young man jumps off the final part of the Galata Bridge, at the entrance of the Golden Horn, Istanbul. This tests of courage are common among lower classes teenagers, who hang around in small groups and are often "tinerci", glue sniffers. Paint-thinners and glues are easy to find and cheap street drugs with a short but strong boost in the blood level of adrenaline.

  • A white Limo is decorated for a wedding. The car will bring a young couple from East Europe to a boat for a Bosphorus cruise.
    Weddings in Turkey are a lavish affair with celebrations that may last for several days. Bosphorus boat wedding parties are very popular choice among young couples, in particular for long time established middle class immigrants people from the Eastern countries, like Armenians, Iraqi and Afghans.

  • A waste collector's bag. Countless individuals can be seen pulling heavy carts with cardboard, plastics and other materials through the streets of Istanbul.
    Tarlabası is one of the oldest and poorest neighborhood of Istanbul. The ongoing AKP party urban renewal project and gentrification process, in addition to imposing thousands of forced evictions, it deepened the housing problems and the poverty of the local low classes, by terminating the survival strategies they had developed over the years through informal economic and social networks.

  • Young men take a swim at night in Kadıköy, on the Asian parti of the Bosphorus. Thousands of people regularly crowd the coastline for barbecues and family parties.
    Istanbul has a population of averagely 180.000 stray dogs. Some of them are regularly collected for vaccination renewals and neutering procedures. But the population is rapidly growing triggering government ordinances of forced relocations outside the city, an action strongly opposed by animal rights activists.

  • Berivan, a Syrian refugees girl in Tarlabasi. She lost both her parents during the war and was taken to Istanbul by some family friends, who now take care of her.
    A teaspoon with two lumps of sugar, in a tearoom in the very predominantly Kurdish suburb of Boğazköy Arnavutköy. This kind of tearoom are frequented only by men.

  • The passengers room of a Bosphorus ferry. These medium-sized boats carry daily thousands people from the European side to the Asian side of the strait or vice versa and are part of the city public transportation system.
    A muslim woman visits Miniaturk, Istanbul, one of the world's largest miniature parks with its 15,000 square meters model area. The park contains 122 models in 1:25 scale.

  • Constantine is a young drag queen who performs in several underground clubs in Istanbul. Homosexuality is widely a taboo subject in Turkey.
    On 20 August 2018, during the 2018 lira crisis, the widely circulated Turkish pro-Erdogan paper Sabah reported that the US was planning to "drop gay bombs" on enemies countries that "will change the sexual preferences of that country’s population".
    A man sleeping on a bench at the waiting room of the Marmaray railway station, Istanbul. Among other connections, the station is famous for the Tunnel, a 13.5 km (8.4 mi) long undersea railway tunnel beneath the Bosporus strait.

  • A portrait of Atatürk at the entrance of a local club in Istanbul. Busts, sculptures, photographs, painting with his icon are widespread in the country. He was the founder and first President of the Turkish republic, and was the responsible for a profound modernization and in particular secularization of the country. He promoted the separation of the powers of state and religion. The adoration of Atatürk as the heroic nation-builder is now out-shadowed by a growing islamization.
    Amjad, a young Pakistani in the Tarlabashi district. He arrived in Istanbul after traveling through Iran in search of a better future. Today he works occasionally as a bricklayer. Among the millions of refugees who have arrived in Turkey most of them are Syrians fleeing the war, but Istanbul is the starting point of the Balkan route to Europe for many other migrant communities, including the Pakistanis.

  • Men praying in a Sufi Sunni mosque in the Beylerbeyi neighborhood of Üsküdar (Asian side of Istanbul). This mosque is also a "tekke", an islamic religious school.
    Cows are gathered in a local car wash garage waiting to be slaughtered. During the Kurban, the "feast of sacrifice", livestock is privately bought and killed. Sometimes even a bull or a camel of minimum 2 years old is sacrificed. Usually the head of the family would perform the sacrifice in the garden or street.

  • Fathma a Syrian refugee in her place in Balat (Istanbul). She lost her husband in Aleppo and now lives in Istanbul in a small flat with her new born child and husband's family. They are all ladies and babies. the only man is nineteen and he takes care financially of all the family.
    The Mausoleum of Sultan Mehmet, part of the Aya Sofya complex in Istanbul. These tombs are the final resting places of five sultans most of whom are buried with members of their families.

  • A tourist girl at a private party in Tophane neighborhood, Istanbul. Western values and way of life are increasingly unwelcome in Turkey, which is undergoing a more strict Islamization process since the AKP party came to power in 2004, under the influence of now president Erdogan.


    Toilets of a restaurant on the Princess Islands, in the Sea of Marmara, a renown touristic spot of Istanbul. What was an exile location for princes and other royalty during the Byzantine period, is now the destination for day-trippers and families.

  • A cow is slaughtered in a private garage for the Kurban the feast of the sacrifice. Kurban is a national holiday and the slaughtering rite is widespread among the poorer classes.
    Vvillieray (pen name) is a young student and drag queen. In the picture he poses for a portrait while he is preparing for a show held in a private apartment. Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, unlike many other majority-Muslim countries, but hostility towards gay people remains widespread. LGBT persons may face discrimination, harassment and even violence from their relatives, neighbors, employees, teachers, and even members of the Turkish police.

  • A kurdish dissident and activist, now a cook, show us his tattoo. He work in a typical kurdish restaurant in kadikoy, in the asian side of Istanbul. Kadikoy is the new hypster neighborhood. I was running a dissident fanzine wich caused him many trables and inprisonment.

  • Two girls in a club in the Asian side of Istanbul, where the nightlife has recently moved, due to restrictions in the Taksim area, once the centre of the "movida".

  • A life-sized lion in Bostancı Lunapark on the outskirts of the Asian side of Istanbul. This old fashioned and cheap amusement park attracts many Syrian families that are now integrated with the local lifestyle.

  • A Turkish family spends the night in a tent set in the Northern part of the Golden Horn, near the Black Sea. During the mid-August holidays of Kurban, the religious feast of sacrifice, families gather in the green spots along the sea and prepare for a prolonged stay.
    A young Syrian girl came in Istanbul as a refugee. She found a local association in Balat, Istanbul, taking care of young children and displaced families from Syria. They survive of donations and organize weekend gatherings and small parties where food and clothes are distributed.

  • Hagia Sophia has been badly damaged by earthquakes, fires and vandalism during the centuries and it's under constant renovation. It has had 3 major changes; originally it was built as a church in 537 later it was converted to the mosque in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople and finally it was opened as a Museum in 1935.
    A small kid at the "chlidren's house" in Balat, Istanbul, a place taking care of refugee children from Syria and helping poor families with food and clothes donated by people of the neighbourhood.

  • A woman during a picnic on the lawns of the local mosque in new modern suburban district of Atasehir. The housing development in this area is designed to include 18,000 skyscraper condominiums offering luxury residences for 80,000 people with higher incomes.
    Poor classes street kids hide their bags and belongings in trees and bushes while begging or resting.

  • A view of a building in Kadikoy. In the last years the intellectual upper-middle class have moved in this neighborhood, in the Asian side of Istanbul, who became the new nightlife and culture hotspots of the city.
    A red haired boy in Balat, Istanbul plays on the street. The highest percentage of red hair in the world occur among Chechens. Chechens are muslim and during the soviet war many Chechens came to Turkey. Additionally millions of Chechens were turkified in the ottoman and other Turkic empires that preceded.

  • Water reels from a ferry in the Bosphorus sea strip dividing European and Asian side of Istanbul.

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