Ara Güler

English
Intro: 
The meeting place is always the same – the Ara Сafé in the heart of Istanbul. As the owner slowly makes the rounds, even the regulars fall silent and contemplate the legendary figure. Ara Güler is one of the most accomplished documentary photographers of the 20th century and the founder of photojournalism in Turkey. His photographic legacy amounts to over two million stories told.
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The meeting place is always the same – the Ara Сafé in the heart of Istanbul. As the owner slowly makes the rounds, even the regulars fall silent and contemplate the legendary figure. Ara Güler is one of the most accomplished documentary photographers of the 20th century and the founder of photojournalism in Turkey. His photographic legacy amounts to over two million stories told.
Text: 

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.
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                                                     Dajad and Verjin Güler at their wedding
 
Güler’s mother Verjin was born into the wealthy Egyptian-Armenian Shahian family. Verjin’s father owned a ship repair business in Constantinople. The family spent winters in Egypt and summers in Constantinople. It was there that Verjin met her future husband, and Ara was the couple’s only child. A maid called Aghavni took care of young Ara.
 
“One day my father said: ‘My boy, you have traveled the entire world but have never visited our village.’ We decided to go to the village. We went all around. My father looked for the family house but never found it because it was demolished. We also went to the cemetery. They had demolished it too,” Güler remembers.
 
On their way back Dajad remembered something he had forgotten to revisit – the fruit growing in the village. “We had traveled some 200 kilometers. If we went back, we’d have lost a day. That’s why I said, ‘We’ll go another time.’ We returned to Constantinople,” says the photographer.
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                                                        Ara Güler with his nanny Aghavni
 
 
But a few months later Dajad fell ill and died of a heart attack. A few hours before his funeral there was a knock on the door. The two men said they were looking for Dajad Güler. “I said: ‘He died and we’re going to the funeral. You come as well.’ They said they were from Shabin-Karahisar and that they had brought something for Dajad. It was fruit, what else? They had brought fruit from the village in a box. I put the fruit in some bags and we left for the cemetery. After the ceremony, I told the priest and he said to leave the fruit with the body. My father left this world with fruit from his village,” Güler recalls. 
 
“The Eye of Istanbul”
 
Ara Güler attended the Mkhitarist School in Istanbul and continued his education at the Getronagan High School. While there he signed up for drama courses at the Muhsin Ertuğrul Theatrical Company. “My father was friends with all the theater and film people. I grew up in the theater. I wanted to become a scriptwriter. If I became one, I would have been one today. Instead, I became one of the world’s most influential journalists,” Güler says contentedly.

 

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                                                                Ara Güler with Salvador Dali
 
At the behest of his father, after high school Ara enrolled in Istanbul University to study economics. “My father had a large pharmacy employing 15. He wanted me to work there,” Ara remembers.
 
While at university Güler developed an interest in photography. In 1950 he started working for the Yeni Istanbul (New Istanbul) magazine. In 1958, when the influential Time-Life magazine opened a branch in Turkey, Güler became its first Near East correspondent. He also worked for Paris Match and Der Stern. In 1953, he joined the Paris Magnum photo agency. In 1961, the annual "British Anthology of Photographers" recognized Güler as one of the world’s top seven photographers. That same year he became a member of the American Society of Photographers. 
 
Güler has traveled and worked on all continents. As a journalist, he photographed the Mindanao and Eritrea wars. He visited Armenia several times. “I was there also in the Soviet times. I have photographed the all churches In Armenia. It is very important,” he says.
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                                                               Ara Güler with Indira Gandhi
 
Ara Güler’s work has been published in scores of prominent magazines and books and won multiple awards. His exhibitions have traveled the world over. Many of his books have seen several print runs. “If it weren’t for those photos, no one would recognize Istanbul. No one was photographing Istanbul except for the shots taken by one or two French and German soldiers during the occupation. But they weren’t of value,” he boasts. Now in his 90s, Güler is convinced that the real journalists are photojournalists. But he hasn’t opened a gallery because “a reporter has no time for such things.” 
 
The story is verified by the 100 LIVES Research Team. 
Subtitle: 
“The eye of Istanbul:” the most famous Armenian with a camera
Story number: 
212
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