It is not at all surprising that he had a number of honorary titles that testify to the bond he felt to his country and to his hometown; after all, in over six decades Güler produced unforgettable pictures of the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul. His black and white motifs reflect his love for and familiarity with the city where he was born in 1928, the son of a respected apothecary of Armenian descent. After studying economics, Güler decided to pursue a career as a photojournalist. He photographed all over the world with his Leica, because he wanted to be seen as more that just a chronicler of the Turkish city: “People call me a photographer of Istanbul, but I’m a world citizen. I’m a photographer of the world.”
He began his long career working for Turkish magazines, but was soon also in demand around the world. He collaborated with the Magnum Photo Agency, produced many reportages and assignments for international magazines, and portrayed countless painters, actors, musicians and prominent personalities of his day. Even so, Istanbul remained his true passion, an endless reservoir of novel pictorial discoveries. He followed its rapid transformation from ancient city to modern metropolis like no other. He focussed his humanistic eye above all on the people, their daily lives in the on-going hustle and bustle of the old alleyways, and on the lively harbour life, with its boats and ferries. His impressions of places, peoples and stories will remain preserved in his great body of work.
“A good photographer must love people. As a photographer of people, I want to capture their joys, dramas, lifestyles – everything that makes up being human. Photography is a means for recording, it has to say something, and you should be able to draw some conclusions from it. That makes photography appealing.”
Just last year a museum named after Güler was opened in Istanbul. In 2016 he was acknowledged for his life’s work with the Leica Hall of Fame Award, and honoured with a comprehensive exhibition at the Leica Gallery’s Masters of Photography presentation within the framework of Photokina 2016.
Already back in 1962, Leica Fotografie introduced Ara Güler as a Master of the Leica; in issue 1/2015 of LFI he was featured in the Leica Classic segment; and in 2016, the second issue of LFI carried a comprehensive portfolio of his work. (Ulrich Rüter)