Lindsay – The Constants of Istanbul

Photo essay commissioned by Lindsay Online

Istanbul had a captivating effect on me when I first visited in the early part of 2008. The city was in the midst of a revitalisation and there was an air of optimism on the busy, frosty streets. This feeling was exaggerated by the sunshine and bright skies we experienced, as the snow melted and people ventured outside as the winter eased. The ancient city that cradles East and West enamoured my best friend and I. We spent a few months in various parts of Europe, but there was something about Istanbul that stood out.

After seven years, I returned to Turkey in the summer of 2014 with a different perspective, having witnessed from afar, the civilian uprisings against the government, including the Gezi Park protests. There was a visible political shift under President Erdoğan. During those several months in Turkey talking to locals and expats who had lived there for years, it became clear that the city was slowly changing; struggling between cosmopolitan liberalism and increasing religious conservatism. I witnessed many competing aspects of Istanbul’s inner turmoil: from wandering through conservative, Ottoman-era neighbourhoods with Turkish flags and Erdoğan’s face visible on every corner, to late night boozy parties spilling onto the streets through Cihangir in central Beyoğlu.

There is a profound quality I discovered on the streets of Istanbul; evidence of history at every turn. While the city is hurriedly changing—with widespread construction taking place as gentrification changes the face of many historic, Constantinople-era neighbourhoods—the pivotal element that keeps Istanbul buzzing is the people. In recent years, many expats have fled, yet others stay and continue to live in this vibrant but tender city. These photographs are a dedication to the resilient residents and ever-changing streets of one of the world’s oldest cities, in a period of considerable flux.