Think of Turkish architecture and you might conjure images of ornate Ottoman art covering the walls of mosques from floor to ceiling. But take a stroll through any of the more modern, industrial communities in Istanbul, and you’ll encounter a world of buildings with distinct geometric features highlighted by bold colorful walls. Architect and photographer Yener Torun moved to the city 14 years ago, and has been sharing his fascination with its color-blocked exteriors via Instagram. His wildly popular and colorful photos infuse the city’s architectural landscape with a delightful whimsy and sense of humor. Torun spoke to In Sight recently about his playful, minimalist approach to changing the way we envision Istanbul’s architecture.
In Sight: How long you have been living in Istanbul, and what was the initial catalyst for starting such a colorful documentation of architecture?
Torun: I’m a 32 year old architect living in Istanbul for 14 years. Usually, Istanbul has been portrayed one-dimensionally in photography. If you think of the Istanbul images you have seen before–grand mosques, old streets, markets, fishermen, seagulls over the Bosphorus–you realize this. It is a vast city and what you have seen in Istanbul photos is stereotyped; only one side of the city. Yes Istanbul is ancient and mystical, but it’s also a developing, modern city. My primary motive was to document a different, less-known part of Istanbul to escape from the one dimensional and orientalist perception. And I started looking for strong lines, vibrant colors and geometric patterns. I believe, increasing the variety of aspects provides a better understanding of the city, both for the viewers and me.
In Sight: What inspired your minimalist approach to this series?
Torun: I always loved simplicity. Even my first photos were very simple compositions with very few elements. Minimalism helps me to focus on the only thing I want to, with leaving everything else behind, and this makes my point stronger. It’s the best way I can express myself. And honestly it is also a different approach than general (compared to popular Istanbul images). That makes the effect of my pics even more stronger with contrasting to usual maximalist approach.
In Sight: In what parts of the city are you finding such a concentration of colorful buildings? Are they scattered throughout Istanbul or do you find you have been traveling outside of the city as well?
Torun: I usually visit industrial areas and developing urban neighborhoods of the city because they provide me the modern lines, colors and geometry I need in my compositions. And since there is a mass growth in construction business in Istanbul lately, I dig every corner of the city to unearth these colorful gems. It really is not an easy task because majority of the new buildings are grey and dull, and finding these places in this grey mass is quite like a treasure hunt. These developing areas are usually very far from the city center.
In Sight: You have a pattern of also only posting photos to your Instagram account every two days. Is that intentional?
Torun: (laughs) Well, of course it is not because I like patterns. I used to post one photo each day, but in time I became more picky and I noticed that I started to delete some old posts. So I decided not to post photos if I am not completely satisfied with the result and I reduced the frequency.
In Sight: Any plans to sell any of these as prints or to develop a book in the future?
Torun: I would love to have a chance to display prints of my works in a gallery or a fair. A photo book would be great too. Actually, I plan to work on other photo sets in different cities in Turkey and other countries, and I already started with some other big cities in Turkey. And in my Instagram gallery there are some photos from Vienna and Prague, too. But of course I do this with my own financial means, and creating a series for each city would take long time this way. I plan to start to look for sponsors or other kinds of partnerships to speed up this process.