Istanbul Suburbs of Balat & Fener
Ask any street photographer what their favourite city is and invariably one rolls off their tongue automatically. For many, that city is Istanbul. Ask why and they'll usually tell you it's the enticing mix of east and west, Europe and Asia. Alas, not for me. I really don't see the appeal. I just don't get it. To me it's too much like southern Europe with a mosque on every corner. Far better to have one or the other, rather than some hybrid.
I did however, enjoy the inner city poverty stricken neighbouring suburbs of Balat and Fener. Balat was originally a middle class Jewish area while Fener was the corresponding Greek area. Both, with the loss of nearly all the Jewish and Greek inhabitants, have spiralled downward into a mix of cheap rent, run-down apartments often lying next to derelict mansions whose legal owners are probably unaware they even exist. The result is a congenial shabbiness of ruination, higgledy piggledy wooden buildings with balconies seemingly in danger of imminent collapse, somewhat reminiscent of a badly decayed San Francisco, and the backstreets of Naples after a special offer on the most colourful paints at the local hardware store. Two of these modes of architecture share the love with satellite dishes.
There's also an ambience to this area that is hard to find in the rest of Istanbul. For a start, no doubt because of the poverty, the streets are relatively car-free and so much the quieter for it. There are none of the annoying buzz-saw scooters and mopeds which characterise places like Marrakech and Sicilian old towns. Children are able to play all day in the middle of the road. And there are very few tourists. Those that do find their way here tend to have an SLR camera around their neck. So there are no carpets or trinkets on sale. Hardly anyone speaks English, or any other modern European language, for that matter. Everyone just ignores the guy with the camera. But attempt a few words of Turkish, buy a coffee or two and they quickly become your friend.
It won't last though. The areas have been designated UNESCO heritage sites and European Union money and artist's studios and a handful of trendy coffee shops are starting to appear, especially noticeable around the area bordering the Great Horn. In 20 years time no doubt it'll be worth seeing, but it won't be the same. These images were taken over two days in November, 2015.