In 1998 Alex Webb visited Istanbul and was immediately enthralled by the people, the layers of culture and history, the richness of street life. But what particularly drew him in was a sense of Istanbul as a border city, lying between Europe and Asia. As he writes, "For thirty-some years as a photographer I have been intrigued by borders, places where cultures come together, sometimes easily, sometimes roughly." He has returned to Istanbul whenever possible, and the resulting body of work some of Webb's strongest to date conveys the frisson of a culture in transition, yet firmly rooted in a complex history.
Straddling the Bosphorus, Istanbul is a place in which East literally meets West, the only major city in the world that actually exists on two continents. Founded by the Greeks some twenty-seven centuries ago, it has survived sieges, civil wars, plagues, and earthquakes. Connecting Europe and Asia, this much-fought-over trading center has had many names: Byzantium, Nova Roma, Constantinople, to name but a few. It has been the capital of two of history's most powerful empires—the Byzantine and the Ottoman—and now stands as the largest city of one of the few secular Muslim nations in the world, a state that hopes to enter the European Union, but is hampered by, among other things, the treatment of its Kurdish citizenry. Women in Istanbul have taken to the streets to protest traditional Islamic laws regarding their rights while others, often dressed in chadors, cling to the past.
In Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names, Webb's ability to distill gesture, color, and contrasting cultural tensions into a single, beguiling frame is used to full effect in presenting his vision of Istanbul: an urban cultural center rich with the incandescence of its past, a city of minarets and pigeons rising to the heavens during the dawn call to Muslim prayers, yet also a city of ATM machines and designer jeans.
Size: 11.75" X 9.875"
Publisher: Aperture Foundation (New York, 2007)