The world-famous open-air photography exhibition "Inside Out Project Istanbul" hits the streets of multi-cultural and colorful Balat, Istanbul
The latestedition of the "Inside Out Project" has come to Istanbul, telling the story of one city district through photography.
The project is aiming to draw attention to everyday problems people face across the world and is based on street exhibitions introduced by the French street artist JR 17 years ago.
Balat was seen as the perfect location for the exposition in Turkey on account of its diverse and colorful population. The area is home to people of various ethnicities, religions and political leanings with Muslims, Christians, Jews, conservatives and liberals living together in peace for many centuries.
Opened on Feb. 15, the exhibition is the brainchild of Tuba Aynur and Tolga Bayraktar, who coined the slogan "We are all the same when we smile" to promote the event.
It has showcased in more than 120 different countries. Daily Sabah spoke with Aynur and Bayraktar to find out more about their journey.
DS: How did you come up with the concept, "we are all the same when we smile?"
Aynur: The overall project is very strict in terms of photography but each individual project has the liberty to select its own concept.
With the latest events in the world, the Arab Spring, wars in the Middle East and now Syria, and also given the [level of] poverty in general plus the economic crisis, we realized it is becoming harder for people to smile, and smiling is a natural act of humans. We all do it, whether women or men, young or old, Turkish or Greek, Muslim or Jew.
DS: So what finally saw this project come to fruition? Did you go around explaining the project to people on the streets or hand out flyers?
Bayraktar: We knew a few locals in the area and they all lent a hand but we walked on the streets of Balat, telling the locals about the project and taking their photos. It is always tricky with outdoor photography exhibitions.
People might have reservations about their faces being up on some random wall but the people of Balat were all welcoming.
Aynur: We worked for about four weekends, took about 200 photographs and handpicked about 70 of them. Everyone was very enthusiastic about their photographs being taken.
DS: Was it hard to get people to smile?
Aynur: Children and teenagers were the easiest. Smiling comes to you naturally when you are a kid and they really had fun during the whole photo shoot. I have to admit, it was a lot harder working with the adults even though they were willing to pose. We had to try and work harder for their smiles to look more natural.
Bayraktar: Every photograph tells a different story. We met so many people and made so many good friends during the whole shoot. They welcomed us into their lives. We heard many heartbreaking and heart-warming stories. We sometimes had to step in their shoes to make them smile as it may not come as naturally to some due to what they have been through. DS: How was the turnout on the first day?
Aynur: We unfortunately had problems as we had to change the location at the last minute. Initially, the Balat Ahrida synagogue had given us permission to use their walls, but they withdrew their authorization at the last minute. We then changed the venue to the Aya Yorgi church. Although we did announce it on our Facebook page, many people didn't become aware of it until the last minute. Some came to Balat but couldn't find the exact location.
But all in all it was a good turnout and even the ones who couldn't make it to the exhibition said they were glad to come visit this unique part of Istanbul for the first time, just to be able to take photos and smell the atmosphere of old Istanbul.
DS: I know you had problems with the photos being torn down by the local kids. What are your plans for the next stage? Are you trying to find a new location?
Aynur: We still have backup photographs.
We are actually looking for a new spot, We want people to be able to view the photographs without having to go to Balat. We would be really honored if people actually contacted us, whether it is individuals offering the side walls of their buildings or municipalities offering us space to display the photos.
Bayraktar: It is always the risk with any street exhibition. I am not surprised that this happened in Balat. It may happen anywhere else. What matters is making the photos seen and turning things inside out to make gallery visitors realize that people in Balat, in this multi-faceted and multi-cultural district, live together and all of them smile together.
Aynur: We are also planning to offer downloadable versions of the photographs as well. This way people can easily download and hang them on the walls of their buildings or windows of their shops.