The big picture: ​a memorable encounter on the backstreets of Istanbul

·2-min read

Street photography as a collective movement has perhaps been most readily associated with certain cities – Paris, New York, London, Tokyo. A new book, Reclaim the Street, goes in search of groups of photographers in places beyond such centres, where those with a love of accidental urban transcendence and surreality are working as online communities, or through festivals and workshops devoted to the most democratic of arts. It collects and showcases the work of groups and individuals from Bangkok and Valparaiso and Chittagong and Brasilia and elsewhere.

This picture was taken in Istanbul in 2019 by Emre Çakmak. He only took up photography that year, at the age of 23, while in recovery from stage 4 cancer. It has subsequently become his therapy and his passion. Çakmak was a prize winner at the second annual Istanbul street photography festival in 2020. He served on the festival jury the following year. “For me, street is not the name of a specific place but is the name of a style,” he says. “‘Photograph’ means to me what ‘poem’ means to a poet.”

The girl with the different-coloured eyes he encountered on a backstreet, framed by the men and the sheep, was a perfect expression of that practice – a little gift from real life. In part, he suggests, it was an articulation of his own sense of the strangeness of the world as he recovered from his cancer. He told Eyeshot magazine that he had started photography as a form of meditation, “helping me stay in the moment instead of living in the past of my mind”. The more pictures he took, however, the more it became something beyond himself. “Street photography is not only meditation now,” he said, “it has turned into the most important way of comprehending life through people.”

  • Reclaim the Street: Street Photography’s Moment by Stephen McLaren and Matt Stuart is published on 6 April by Thames & Hudson (£50)