Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015 - 1 comment

Casa de “Son of the One With the Big Moustache”

A friend and I have a longstanding habit of texting each other amusing last names we come across when we’re out and about.  

Last names in Turkey are a fairly recent affair - after the founding of the Republic in 1923, Atatürk declared that everyone must choose one by a specified date.  So “Mehmet who lives behind the mosque” might have become Mehmet Yılmaz (Yılmaz means “Doesn’t Fear”) or Mehmet Şimşek (Şimşek means “Lightning.”)  Many people’s names reflected their occupation, like Kahveci (“The Coffee Seller”) or that of their father, like Yağcıoğlu (“Son of the Guy Who Sells Oil.”)  Others, like that of our Prime Minister, Davutoğlu, are the Turkish equivalent of “Johnson” or “Anderson.”  (His means “Son of David.”)  Still others chose names that reflected a characteristic for which they wanted to be known, such as Eşsiz (“Without Equal”) or Altınyürek (“Heart of Gold”).

Then there are the ones that sound a little...odd.  The ones that make you wonder if someone’s ancestor actually chose that name for himself or if he was out of town when they came by to register names and his neighbour decided to play a joke on him.   Those are the textworthy ones.  Some of our funnier finds are Parmaksız (“Fingerless”), Kocabıyıkoğlu (“Son of the One With the Big Moustache”) and - this one is my doctor’s name - Özkarakaş, which means “Essence of the Dark Eyebrow.”

Rambling through Istanbul’s older neighbourhoods is a great way to discover some good last names.  Many of the old apartment buildings were originally inhabited by a single family, with mom and dad on one floor and, as they got married, various kids and grandkids on the others.  Buildings were generally named after the family that owned them, or sometimes the city they originally came from.  I love the fun “fonts” of the various hand-painted signs over the entryways, and have decided to start a collection of my favourite finds.  Goodness knows it won’t be long before they’re torn down and replaced with thirty-storey “office-residence” buildings and shopping malls.  Gotta capture them before they’re gone, and a whole era of İstanbullu life with them.

This set are from the Moda and Yeldeğirmeni neighbourhoods in Kadıköy on İstanbul’s Asian side.  Note the evil eye on the first one and the stickers for water company subscription numbers and a locksmith's phone number so helpfully plastered on a few of the doors!  

"Good Day"

"Mr. Nazmi"

"Be Lucky"


"Amber-worker".  This one is spelled the old Ottoman way and
pre-dates the Republic and, therefore, the surname law.

"Aydın" means "bright" or "enlightened/educated."

"Son of the Captain/Lieutenant"

"The Men"


"Full Moon"

"Çankaya" literally means "Bell Rock", but it usually refers to the district of
Ankara (the capital) where the Presidential palace and all the embassies are.

Um...hard to translate.  I just like the script.  :)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday, July 18, 2015 - 2 comments

Unstuck in Steveston

Last week, Shutterfly had a sale.  The big kind, with 50% off your whole order and free shipping to Canada.  The kind that lets me actually make a decent profit from my photo card sales...or at least make up what I’m losing on all the stock sitting in shoeboxes in my mom’s living room drawers.  

These trips home for the summer are my big chance to shoot the kind of “North American market friendly” images that make for cards people will actually buy from my website.  (Not everyone on this side of the ocean thinks Turkish carpets and Roman  ruins are perfect on the front of a thank you note.)  It was my big chance to refresh my stock at a great price.  

The only trouble was, my creative flow was feeling a little...constipated.  I had zero inspiration, no fresh ideas.  Just a looming “end of the sale” deadline and one big blank absence of creativity.  

Thankfully, I’ve learned something over the years:  whenever I’m feeling “stopped up” or uninspired, the best thing I can do is get out there and do the very thing I have no vision for.  If I can’t think of anything to write, the fix is to sit down with my notebook and just start moving my pen.  If my Turkish is sounding pitiful or my grace for the culture is waning, the way to get out of my funk is to go join a bunch of neighbour ladies for tea and conversation.  And if I have a dearth of desire to make pretty pictures, the cure is to pick up my camera and walk out the door.

So that’s exactly what I did.  I had no ideas in my head, so I went out and let the ideas find me.

Steveston, the old fishing village turned quaint coastal neighbourhood just down the road from me, is always good for an infusion of life into my heart and my creative reservoir.  And this time was no exception.  Poking around the second hand stores and gift shops and looking at the work of other local artists always get the inspiration flowing.  A trip to Village Books gets my imagination whirring.  Wandering the familiar grounds of London Farm and the Britannia Shipyards yields surprises in places I thought I knew by heart.  A few minutes of salty air and driftwood and seagulls on the Dyke revives my heart.  And an artistically crafted latte at Rococino and a couple of those wonderful mini-donuts make up for anything that is still lacking.  

I came home at the end of the day feeling alive and unstuck.  Seeing beauty around me seems to deposit beauty into my own heart, and suddenly the ideas were flowing.  Two days later, I had churned out a number of images that I both love and am excited to sell.   (Sneak peeks of those to be posted soon!)

Sometimes all it takes is being willing to walk out the front door.  


Here are some of my favourite images from the day: