Istanbul panorama: photographs by Orhan Pamuk
An exhibition showing photographs taken by the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk from his balcony evokes his characteristic sense of melancholy and nostalgia.
Between December 2012 and April 2013, the Nobel Prize winning novelist Orhan Pamuk engaged in a new activity: taking photographs of the view from the balcony of his apartment in Cihangir. The images were published as a photobook called Balkon (Balcony) in 2018 by German publisher Gerhard Steidl. And now 600 photos from the book are being exhibited at Yapı Kredi Cultural Center.

By Orhan Pamuk

After deciding to become a writer in 1973, Pamuk stopped painting and taking photographs. However, in the winter of 2012, while depressed with writing, Pamuk temporarily shifted his attention to photography after purchasing his first digital camera.

“I recognized my own sorrow in the landscape; […and] I was enthralled by the multitude of functions on my new camera, and they distracted me from my melancholy state,” writes Pamuk in the introduction to Balkon.

By Orhan Pamuk

Taking a total of 8,500 photos in four months from the same spot, Pamuk showed his obsession with the views from his balcony, where a panorama between Cihangir mosque and Mount Uludağ can be seen. “[They are] the same kind of views enjoyed by foreign embassies from Ottoman times,” writes Pamuk.

Most of the photos were taken in winter, and the classic Istanbul scenes Pamuk captured through his lens—ferries and freighters crossing the Bosphorus, iconic skylines emerging in lights of dawn and sunset, surrounding hills looming in mist—echoes the melancholy, nostalgic tone in his narratives of the city.

By Orhan Pamuk

Just as his novels ambitiously cover a wide range of topics and consist of intricate elements, Pamuk’s photographs pursue an epic, panoramic view, yet also record specific details, from the changes of daylight to architecture.

When talking about painting in his book Istanbul: Memories and the City, Pamuk once explained that his choice of subject was much more important to him than the style or technique, seeing his artwork as a spontaneous expression of something inside him. Istanbul being Pamuk’s ultimate subject, a similar expression can be found in his photographs, too. “There is something in this view which reflects my own state of mind and reveals the ineffable but profound emotions running through me,” writes Pamuk.

By Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk – Balkon exhibition can be visited until April 27 at Yapı Kredi Cultural Center; free admission. İstiklal Caddesi No.161, Beyoğlu


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