A balcony with a view

The Yapı Kredi Culture and Art building is currently hosting a photography exhibition by the Nobel-laureate Orhan Pamuk, featuring landscape shots taken from the balcony of his house in Cihangir.

By Esra Özen |

The photographs have been made into a book by the eminent publisher Gerhard Steidl, who has also curated the exhibition. The show is a must-see for readers of Pamuk as well as anyone interested in the visual world of the celebrated author.

As he recounts throughout his autobiographical book ‘Istanbul: Memories and the City’, Orhan Pamuk wanted to become a painter long before he took up the pen. As anyone who has read his novels or visited the Museum of Innocence can attest, visual narratives have always been an important part of Pamuk’s work. The author famously draws doodles on the edges of his manuscripts when he procrastinates and, after bringing back home a Canon camera he picked up during a trip to New York, Pamuk also began taking photographs to distract himself whenever words started to lose their flow. Pamuk says this soon evolved into a compulsive need to “record” the landscape before his eyes and he was soon taking an average of seven photographs per hour.

Between December 2012 and April 2013, Pamuk took a total of 8.500 photographs from the balcony of his flat overlooking the Cihangir Mosque. When Gerhard Steidl, the founding director of the eponymous publishing company, saw the resulting work, he asked the author to come up with a selection. The 600-plus photographs that made it through this elimination were made into a book entitled ‘Balkon’ by Steidl and are currently on display at the Yapı Kredi Culture and Art building on Istiklal. Steidl also curated the exhibition and told us that the close positioning of the photographs were inspired by the exhibition style of the Hermitage Museum in Russia. Though he added that this also served a practical purpose, as they couldn’t otherwise fit as many photographs into the exhibition space.

Pamuk’s balcony overlooks a sweeping vista stretching from the edge of the Golden Horn to the ends of the Bosphorus. Thus, simple alterations in lens, camera angle and zoom have yielded variety to the photographs, which were in fact all taken from a fixed tripod. Factors such as changes in seasons and the time of day the photographs were taken have also affected the light. At times the sea takes on a silvery hue in Pamuk’s photographs or a sublime red glow spreads across the sky as the sun sets over his beloved city.

On display at Yapı Kredi Culture and Art until April 27.