Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday, May 04, 2012 - 1 comment

Celebrity Stalking #1: Ara Güler

The past month has included two trips to Istanbul - one for ear surgery and one for post-op follow up.  A recurring theme during these two trips has been celebrity stalking.  More accurately, my failed attempts at celebrity stalking.  In honour of my recent flops in this arena, I decided to do a three-part series on my mis-adventures tracking famous people in the city.
Ara Güler (photo:  Wikipedia)
Our first specimen:  Turkey's prized photographer, Ara Güler.  He is said to be the seventh greatest photographer in the world (how "they" determine this, I am not sure) and he has been a major source of inspiration for me.  I am a particular fan of his black and white photos from the '50s - '70s in some of Istanbul's poorest and most lively districts, which are also my personal favourite places to photo-roam.  (Check out his work here.)
Just off Istiklal Caddesi below Galatasaray Square is Kafe Ara, below the famous photographer's studio (named after but not owned by him.)  My aim was to see if he'd make an appearance, as he's said to often do in the afternoons.  And if he did, the plan was to ask him if we could go out shooting together sometime.  Presumptuous?  Perhaps.  But sometimes you’ve just gotta ask.
These are "on-the-go" notes, rather than a polished piece.  Enjoy the ride.
He’s here!  At the table next to mine!
Apparently he has appointments lined up cuz when I got here, a girl was showing him her portfolio, and when another arrived, he said, “There’s my 3 o’clock.”  So...I’ll wait her out and see what happens.  Hopefully when they finish up, he’ll stick around for another çay, and I can at least say hello and shake his hand and see if he seems chatty.
He definitely looks old.  Being born in 1928 would make him....84.  Wow.  I wonder how well he walks?  I’d so love to head over to Zeyrek or Edirnekapı with him to shoot, just to see how he sees and watch how he interacts with his subjects.  
I feel a little like Rory on that Gilmore Girls episode when she meets Christiane Amanpour.  She doesn’t believe when her mom calls her to come to the inn and see who’s there, so she shows up still in her PJs.  
I don’t exactly look the part of a world class photographer just now, wearing a hoodie and with my ear all bandaged up, but there you go.  I have no idea what to say, but I’m sure I can manage, “Hi,” and, “I’m a big fan of your work.”
I really like this cafe and its atmosphere.  It’s sort of a split level place, with the back half being a raised loft that sits over the kitchen.  All the pipes and air ducts are exposed, but with the wood floors and banisters, the feel is more warm and friendly than cool and metallic.  White globe lights hang from the ceiling and matching half-ones are mounted on the walls between prints of some of Güler’s black and white Istanbul photos, all in black and white.  A small glass vase of pink and white carnations each table - a welcome sign of a long-awaited spring.  
Several shelves and ledges are decorated with antique telephones, old thermometers, bright red milk pitchers and old kettles of various shapes, sizes and colours. There’s one light blue one with white polka-dots that I particularly love.  And there’s this great bundle of cezves (Turkish coffee pots) tied together and hanging from the ceiling over the door to the kitchen.  A window-y display case looks through to the kitchen and is crowded full of tiny tea pots, cups and mugs, all solid colours - bright tin-like one’s that might have had a previous life in an American diner in the ‘60s.  
Plenty of Louis n’ Ella, Frank and Dean, and a lot of big band music make me think I could stay here all day.  
Piles of photographers keep walking in, armed with mile-long lenses and confident expressions on their faces.  This is clearly the place to gather, or be seen, or both.  I wonder if they’re all lined up to see Mr. Güler, too.  
I asked my waiter if I need an appointment to meet The Man, and he said no, that I should just wait til he’s done with his friends and then he’ll see if he can get me a few minutes.  
There’s a table where all the Long Lenses are sitting, and among them is a girl who I think might be his assistant.  She’s been there since just after I came, intimidating me simply with her presence and her air.  I wonder if I’m supposed to go through her...  Thankfully my waiter’s really sweet and normal.  I think I’ll pass on her and stick with him.
My lunch (yes, I’ve been sitting here that long) was yummy, if not a bit pricey.  Well, actually, in dollars, I guess it really wasn’t.  I had a sage-dill-walnut-white cheese pasta dish that I really enjoyed.  (And, yes, I checked - no greens in my teeth.)  People whose reviews I read online raved about the homemade lemonade with mint leaves, but I wasn’t such a fan.  Too tart and too sweet all at the same time.
Okay, I’m really battling fear and intimidation here.  And I’m feeling a little dizzy.... Apparently the drugs that knocked me out for the operation haven’t quite left my system.  Surely a cup of coffee will flush them out.   And calm me down.
Yes, this latte is doing the trick.  Funny, I’ve seen several people drinking what looks like Nescafe in Turkish tea cups.  I thought that was a total no-no.  Maybe it’s “socially unacceptable” if you do it at home to serve guests, but “creative presentation” if you pay lots for it at a trendy cafe.  
Okay, his “friends” are leaving.  Are there others in line?  Maybe not.  Do I just walk over?  Nope, someone else already did.  Dangit!
Maybe I’ll just keep writing about the decor til they all leave.  Colourful painted plates hang on several walls - some in the traditional Ottoman Iznik style, others more plain and modern....
Seriously, how long should I sit here?  On the one hand, I’m sad not to be out gezzing (exploring), though I know I do still have tomorrow if I want to come back.  On the other hand, leaving feels like quitting and giving in to fear, and I certainly don’t want to give in to that either.
Intimidating Girl and the guy at the table with her appear to be leaving, which gives me great hope.  Now I just have to wait out the guy at the table with Mr. Güler.  I can do that.  I’ll just keep ordering more tea.
Okay, continuing with the play-by-play...  He got out some cash, which made me think he was leaving.  (Do you suppose he has to pay to eat at the restaurant named after him?)  Oh, now two more people joined him.
Oof.  I’m really not good at this “stalking famous people” thing.  And my bladder can’t hold any more tea.  Should I just try again tomorrow?  
Intimidating Girl is gone now.  But so is my nice waiter.  Hmm.
Would it be rude to just tap him on the shoulder and say hi as I leave?  Oh, the questions!

Okay.  I’m going to leave.  Not because I’m scared (at least, not entirely), but because I don’t want to spend my entire day drinking pricey tea.  Forget meeting a famous photographer - I’m going to go out and shoot some famous photos of my own.  I think that’s what he’d want me to do anyway.  :)

**If you squint real hard, you can see Ara Güler
 himself, just inside, under the "Açık" ("Open")
 sign.  Clearly, I was not cut out for the paparazzi life!


Oh my goodness.....I thought that you'd meet him for sure! - beautifully written!!