ISTANBUL — Legendary Istanbul-Armenian photographer Ara Guler died on Wednesday in Istanbul. He was 90. Guler suffered a heart attack and was taken to the intensive care unit of Florence Hospital where he breathed his last.
He was suffering from kidney failure and had to be taken for treatment thrice a week. “That dialysis makes me stupefied,” he said in an interview with Anadolu Agency in 2015.
“I cannot do anything three days a week, it takes four hours each time and it is unbearable.”
In the world of photojournalism, Güler has been known as the “Eye of Istanbul”, not only because it was where he studied filmography, theater and economics before finally turning to journalism, but because he managed to capture daily life in only city in the world located on two continents. He rose to fame with his black-and-white portraits of the city.
The importance of the journalistic work of the Istanbul-Armenian photographer lies in his ability to turn the day-to-day environment and common subjects into extraordinary moments and characters.
Güler was born in Istanbul in 1928 to Armenian parents. He studied at the local Getronagan Armenian High School. Owner of a pharmacy on Istiklal Avenue, his father had a wide circle of friends from the art world of the period. Ara Güler’s early contact with this world inspired him to embark on a career in cinema. During his high school years, he jobbed in movie studios and attended drama courses held by Muhsin Ertuğrul, the founder of modern Turkish theater. However, he abandoned cinema in favor of journalism, joining the staff of the newspaper Yeni Istanbul as photojournalist in 1950 and studying economics at the University of Istanbul at the same time. He then transferred to another newspaper, Hürriyet.
By the end of the 1950s, he worked for world-renowned magazines such as Time Life in the US, the French weekly Paris Match or Der Stern in Germany, travelling around the world – from Pakistan to Kenya, from New Guinea to Borneo.
In 1957, he was in France covering the Cannes Film Festival. He met legendary figures from the film industry including American filmmaker Orson Welles, Italian writer Alberto Moravia and Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.
Guler also photographed the likes of Winston Churchill, John Berger, Alfred Hitchcock and Salvador Dali, among many, many others.