June 4, 2013

Why I Like Guy Martin's Gezi Park Photos

Honestly, I wish I hadn’t read the text before I looked at these photos of Turkish protests in Istanbul. I was only too aware of Martin’s description — about not wanting to shoot conflict again after having been wounded in Libya; about the fact he took these photos primarily as an Istanbul resident; that he was looking from the “peripheries.” But the pictures are notable for what they’re not. Not sensational. Not glorifying the violence. Could the photo world be approach a tipping point in terms of sensation, aesthetics and the combination?

Here are some things I like from the set:

I like the image of the proper couple, not just for its normality amidst the abnormality, but for the man’s face. In a side glance — the two otherwise sticking to their path — is all the concern in the world. Of course, the rubble underfoot is about what spawned the uprising in the first place — the government’s (politicization of) construction.

At the periphery of the protests, we see another citizen, this one with a child. They are under a surveillance camera in front of a razor wire fence at the edge of a military base. I’m assuming it’s tear gas wafting down the slope. If all those riot photos filling the newswires excite and raise the suggestion or hope of a true fight, here is the shot we hardly in the drama. It’s the view of the citizen just beyond the smoke, concerned but otherwise as they were — distant, remote, on the outside.

For the monied elite in the luxury hotel high above the park, however, we’re talking about a completely different periphery: the fires from below barely mar the view.

Finally, you can read incessantly about the removal of those few trees and the urban reconstitution of the park, or the plans for political repurposing of existing buildings, but I appreciate this photo. If the choice would otherwise be deemed to0 mundane, I want to actually see some physical architecture. Mixed with the literal, though — what the construction site of the proposed mall, mosque and shopping complex looks like in progress, we get symbolism, too:  industry and concrete as the material of oppression, and the divide.

Complete slideshow and narrative at Time Lightbox.

(photos: Guy Martin/Panos caption 1: A couple walks amongst the rubble of the Gezi Park construction area after anti-government protesters drove back riot police. caption 2: A women watches riot police clash with anti-government protesters early on Sunday morning from behind the razor wire of a military base in Besiktas. caption 3: A man takes tea at a hotel balcony that overlooks Gezi park and the Bosphorus sea. The smoke below is from the fires lit by anti-government protesters in the Besiktas neighborhood of Istanbul. caption 4: A tear gas round lands in the construction site of the propsed mall, mosque and shopping complex in the Gezi Park area of Istanbul as thousands of protesters attempt to get to the area.)

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Michael Shaw
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