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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

The man who captured Istanbul: Renowned photographer Ara Guler dies aged 90

The work of Guler contained the spirit of huzun, the Turkish word for melancholy, which is seen as a particular Istanbul characteristic

Renowned Istanbul photographer Ara Guler at his Ara Cafe in 2015. He captured almost three quarters of a century of the city's history, dying aged 90 on October 17, 2018 AFP
Renowned Istanbul photographer Ara Guler at his Ara Cafe in 2015. He captured almost three quarters of a century of the city's history, dying aged 90 on October 17, 2018 AFP

Legendary Turkish photographer Ara Guler, famed for iconic images of Istanbul which captured almost three quarters of a century of the city's history, has died aged 90, state media said.

Guler passed away after being taken to hospital in Istanbul for emergency treatment for heart failure, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

He won fame with extraordinary images of Istanbul in black-and-white that admirers believe capture the soul of the city more than any other photographer.

His work ranged from images of the city's best known mosques and landmarks, pictures of workers going about their daily lives to rare pictures of Istanbul covered in a blanket of snow.

In a city that is now changing at a frenetic pace, Guler's work preserved facets of Istanbul that have now become irrevocably lost.

Celebrated Turkish writer and Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk famously used Guler's images in his book Istanbul: Memories and the City in which the smoky and misty photos provided the perfect accompaniment to the text.

For many, the work of Guler was shot through with the spirit of huzun, the Turkish word for melancholy, which is seen as a particular Istanbul characteristic.

But in a wide-ranging career, he also photographed famous personalities including Salvador Dali, Alfred Hitchcock and Winston Churchill. Another famous subject was the artist Pablo Picasso.

Born to an Armenian family in Istanbul, Guler attended an Armenian school there and began working as a photographer on Turkish newspaper Yeni Istanbul.

He got his first big international break as a photographer in 1958 when US magazine Time-Life opened a Turkey office.

He then met the likes of Marc Riboud and Henri Cartier-Bresson who signed him up to join the celebrated photo agency Magnum.

Fans liked to call Guler the "eye of Istanbul", but he insisted he was more.

"People call me an Istanbul photographer. But I am a citizen of the world. I am a world photographer," he said once.

His work took him around the world to Africa and Afghanistan as well as his native Turkey and resulted in numerous books, which remain a favourite of Istanbul souvenir hunters to this day.

Guler was a well-known face in Istanbul and even in his last months could regularly be seen at the outside tables of the cafe he owned — Ara Cafe — in central Istanbul which is adorned with his pictures.

On August 18 this summer, a photography museum in Istanbul opened in his name.

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