Turkey – I saw the work of Kürşat Bayhan while I was teaching a workshop in Bursa in September 2012. I was deeply moved by his powerful and often heartbreaking images. They tell the story of desperate migrants from Anatalia, working in Istanbul who are isolated and cut off from their families and homeland and culture.
In one image, a man sits on his bed in a rundown room in Istanbul. The walls are peeling. The room is disheveled. His face is lit by the extremely bright sunlight coming through the window that he gazes out of longingly. We can only imagine what he must be thinking. He’s so very sad. We want to take his hand and lead him home.
Kürşat’s photographs are about a certain longing and nostalgia. Men arrive with their few bags full of hopes, but soon they are isolated—even as they sit among others in a tea house. But they are alone feeding pigeons or walking down a narrow hallway of a rooming house. We feel the cold of the city, the desolation and poverty, we feel their desperation.
Kürşat takes us back to East of Turkey, where it’s also cold and desolate, but it has a certain nostalgic beauty that is home. It’s a land of years gone by—the land I remember from so many years ago when I traveled in eastern Turkey on a Fulbright Fellowship.
One of my favorite photographs is of two young girls in Kenarbel village near Ardahan on a lonely dirty road proudly displaying the beautiful white dresses obviously bought for them in Istanbul perhaps by their father—a symbol of his travels and success.
We return to Istanbul and see discarded mattresses and carpets—objects left by the immigrants when they return home.
Another favorite photograph of mine is of an empty street where a discarded sleeping mat lies beside a chalked “X.” A happy street dog lays sleeping. He has found a new home.
Kürşat’s book is a visually powerful and uniquely and beautifully told story about human beings and their quest for survival.
Besides being a brilliant journalist and a true humanist, Kürşat is a great poet.
–Mary Ellen Mark
Title: Away from Home
Author: Kürşat Bayhan
Price: US $ 29 – EU 22 Euro