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Photographer's Note

This is one of my favourite photos from my journey through Turkey in 1971. Maybe not the best photo but one of those that make me happiest now. It is from Gaziantep, the largest city in southeastern Turkey. Coming from the western part this is where a traveller suddenly meets a strong influence of Kurdish and Arabic culture.

Here is a larger version.

This photo has an amusing background. Arriving in Gaziantep I was struck by the colourful clothes worn by most Kurdish women. I really wanted to take a photo, but at my first attempt I was so outstared by my selected "victims" that I lost courage.

But sitting in a teahouse I was drawn into a conversation with two young men. When I told them of my photo ambitions they promised to fix it for me.

So we left the teahouse and went hunting for women. We soon found this group sitting on a pavement. The young men approached an elderly man "in charge" of the group. A discreet conversation followed and after a short while the man told me to go ahead.

Did anyone ask the women?

Of course not!

I was happy to take the photo, but that evening I wrote in my diary that I would have preferred a more natural photo instead of one where they were staring into the camera.

But when I recently saw the photo again for the first time in decades I was delighted to discover that they are not at all staring into the camera. Only the young boys look at me, the women seem like they couldn't care less. And I love the attitude of the two young women in the middle. One of them, hiding her mouth behind her hand, is obviously saying something funny to her friend.

I wonder what she said. Could she possibly have been talking about me?

In my diary I also described Gaziantep as a very exciting city, full of narrow alleys with market stalls and dark workshops, houses with flowers and ornaments and the Kabah of Makkah painted around the doors, and quite often the words "Hoş Geldiniz" (Welcome). The atmosphere was very different from that in the cities of central and western Anatolia. The presence of so many Kurds and Arabs made it feel so much more "Oriental".

I visited Gaziantep again in 1974 when I took a number of photos that I have previously posted here, like this relaxed man I met in a teahouse, these men in the same place and this man in a red shirt.

In 1971 I also took a few very conventional photos in Gaziantep, like this one through a window, or this one showing a hill with a mosque.

Like most other Turkish cities Gaziantep has grown tremendously in recent decades. From 271 000 inhabitants in 1971 the population has now reached about 1,7 million. It was then, and still is, Turkey's sixth largest city.

All photos were scanned from Agfacolor CT18 slides.

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Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 10024 W: 520 N: 19303] (85171)
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