Tag: Syrian refugee


Istanbul at night, David Gross (techie info: 17mm (35mm equivalent) lens, 1/30 sec @ f/3.5 @ 8000 ASA, Olympus OM-D. Prefocused at 15 feet walking through Istanbul at night, shooting from the waist. Processed as FujiColor Press 800 film in Lightroom.)

Actually, a better title for this post would be “One Step Back, Two Steps Forward”; things looked a bit dour yesterday morning, but ended on a more positive note.

We learned early yesterday, through our Turkish partners, that we will have to be connected to a non-profit or some other governmental group in order to do this work in Turkey. Ever since the Gezi park protests this past year, Istanbullas are wary of crossing paths with the government.  Despite the fact that we intentionally designed our project to be apolitical, this doesn’t keep others from potentially seeing it through a political lens. For example, the simple fact that we are working with Syrian refugees can be seen by some as political; there is a belief that the refugees have been given easy entry to Turkey in the hopes that they will vote for a given party in the next elections.

However, as luck would have it, we met yesterday with Çare-Der, a non-profit organization here in Istanbul that specializes in mental health for teenagers and adolescents. Ezgi, one of our art therapists, works with Çare-Der, and was able to set up a meeting for us. They were incredibly generous with their time, and had thoughtful ideas on how to collaborate with us. We’ll hear more from them in a few days, but we’re hoping to work with them.

In other good news, we met yesterday with a Syrian photographer living in Istanbul, Khalid Eid. In addition to his experience as a photographer, Khalid worked recently in Syria with an NGO that does interactive theater with children. He has a few connections to Syrian schools in Turkey, and may be able to help us set up our therapy sessions in one of them. Furthermore, he will be able to translate the sessions for the kids, which is a huge help to us. Khalid’s experience working with children is invaluable, and he had wonderfully creative ideas to contribute to our plans for how to organize the art sessions. We’re very excited to be working with him.

And last but not least, I feel remiss that we’ve been in Istanbul for over a week and have yet to post a photo of a cat. Cats are everywhere in the streets here, and the locals put out food for them daily. So here we go, if only to get this out of my system:


Istanbul, Mieke Strand (iPhone)

Görüşürüz!  -Mieke

Although our day started this morning with emails and phone calls, we did manage to step out this afternoon with our cameras. We were lucky that Ferdi Limani was available to come with us. Ferdi speaks fluent Turkish (one of his 5 languages!), so he was able to chat with local Turks on the street. David and Ferdi met in Kosovo in 1999; at that time, Ferdi was working as a fixer for James Nachtwey.

Here’s Ferdi against a background David was experimenting with on our walk:


Ferdi, David Gross

(Side note for those curious about equipment etc.: David shoots with an Olympus OM-D camera. This shot was taken with a Leica DG Summilux 25mm 1.4 lens, at ISO 250, 1/60, f2.8)

We decided to head to the Eminönü neighborhood in Istanbul, as we had heard from several people that there were many Syrian refugees living on the streets and parks there; specifically, we had heard that many were living near the Süleymaniye Mosque. The reality was much more complicated. We discovered some Syrian families living in abandoned buildings in the area, but as one Syrian man told us, many of these people had moved to Istanbul for economic reasons, rather than in flight from the war.

The information we got from Turkish people on the street was varied and often contradictory. Some claimed the Syrians in Eminönü were largely well-off, and pretending to be refugees in order to make extra money by begging on the streets. On the other hand, the people we saw living in abandoned houses looked like they were really scraping to survive. The truth, whatever it is, must be extremely complicated.

In leaving Eminönü, we ran into a lively bunch of Turkish kids in the street, including this young girl with a mask:


Young girl on street, David Gross (same camera & lens as above, ISO 250 1/80 f2.8)

We also discovered that the light in Istanbul becomes incredibly warm and beautiful this time of year at around 4pm. It turns the colors of the street rich and vibrant.

Here’s another iPhone photo I took of David. I promise to start taking a wider variety of test photos on the iPhone, so you all don’t get tired of looking at him. I am excited to see how my film images (of others!) in this light & location turned out.


David in Eminönü, Mieke Strand

Such gorgeous colors and textures in this city.

Görüşürüz!  -Mieke


On the ferry to Buyukada, David Gross

Ahh, the weekend. A time of rest, relaxation…and frustration if you’re in the mood to get things done!

We approached our first weekend in Istanbul with some reluctance, because it meant we’d have to take a short break from meeting with people directly involved with Inside-Outside. However, the weekend did give us the opportunity to visit one of David’s friends, a journalist and writer who lives on the island of Buyukada.

Buyukada (which means “big island” in Turkish) is magical. We took a 90 minute ferry ride to get there from Istanbul. The island allows no cars, other than a few municipal vehicles. We actually took a horse-drawn buggy to get from the ferry station to our destination.

The island was once a summer destination for wealthy Istanbullas, and it still hosts many Victorian era estates. The house we visited was built in 1888, and it had a fairy-tale quality to it: svelte and tall, weathered in white paint, drawn with ornate flourishes, and surrounded by a wild garden that wound down to the sea. It was the kind of house that whispers secrets of its past while you sleep.

Such a house would feed the imagination of any child, and as luck would have it, our friend has two sons, both about the same age as the children we hope to work with. David took the opportunity to take their portraits, trying out the techniques he plans to use for Inside-Outside.


Nikita, David Gross

While David will be using lights for his portraits, I intend to use natural light and photograph outside. (I will also be using medium format film, which means I will not be able to post that work here for some time.) In our walks around Buyukada and Istanbul, I’ve been watching light, color, and backdrops. We are happily in a wonderful location for all three.

Here is a quick cell phone photo I took of David today in a spot with the type of light, color, and background I keep looking for:

photo 2

David, Mieke Strand

Although it was a wonderful weekend, we’re looking forward to getting back to the work of organizing our first art therapy session tomorrow. Stay tuned!


On the ferry to Buyukada, David

Tea House

Welcome to the Inside-Outside blog!

We fly to Istanbul in a few short hours to begin work on Inside-Outside. We’ll be posting updates of our progress from the road here over the next few months.

Thanks again for all your support! We’re excited to get started.

If this is your first visit to our site, please visit our project page for a full description of what we’re up to.

(photo: David Gross, Tea House in Diyarbakır, Turkey 2002)


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