Many in the world first saw Winston Churchill, Maria Callas and Yasser Arafat through Güler’s lens. “Arafat’s first photo in Time magazine was mine,” says Güler. “First I would befriend them and only then begin my reportage. If I wanted to do a story about you, I wouldn’t tell you. We’d have to become friends first.”
Among Ara Güler’s photo subjects were Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, Indira Gandhi and Marc Chagall, Alfred Hitchcock and Aram Khachaturian.
However, Güler is best known for his absolute masterpieces: images of Istanbul portraying the daily lives of its inhabitants. “Many photographers reproduce an image. But one has to show movement, living people,” says Güler.
| Istanbul through the eyes of Ara Güler (Photos: araguler.com.tr)
“I was born in Istanbul on August 16, 1928 at 4:30 p.m.,” Güler begins to tell his life story. His roots go back to Shabin-Karahisar (Şebinkarahisar in northeastern Turkey): his father, Dajad Derderian (born 1896) left the town for Istanbul at the age of six. Dajad was educated at the Tarkmanchats School in the city’s Ortaköy neighborhood and sang in the Kousan choir formed by Komitas. In 1934 a law was passed requiring citizens to Turkify their last names. Dajad Derderian became Dajad Güler. The latter means “roses” in Turkish.
All of Dajad’s relatives back in Shabin-Karahisar perished in the Armenian Genocide in 1915. “There’s no one from my father’s side. They are all gone. They were killed. Killed. Do you understand?” Güler asks.
Dajad settled in Constantinople. He learned pharmacology and opened his own drugstore.