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Searching for Gul

Words and photographs of Gul by Nusrat Durrani

Istanbul is one of the most intriguing and exotic cities in the world and no one has brought it to life more evocatively than Turkish master photographer Ara Guler whose photos conjure an electric city steeped in history but rushing turbulently into the future. Guler’s black and white images are dense with emotion, fragrance and yearning. They seduce the senses and are an invitation to get lost in the city.

Like Istanbul, our Turkish muse, Gül Dirican, provokes enquiry. Gul is an anomaly and a moving target. Defining who she is like trying to nail the wind. She is a geophysicist by training but worked for years as a journalist. She achieved success as a screenwriter for film and some of the most popular shows on Turkish television but quit to embrace the spirituality of yoga. Although she practices its Ashtanga form she is a reputed teacher of Hatha yoga through which she hopes her students will worship their bodies and increase their capacity for love. 

We love Gül because she is the quintessential CMPLT UNKNW woman- accomplished, strong-willed and hedonistic. An evening with her might involve drinking whisky with passionate discussions about love, art, literature and the state of Turkish politics while Antony and the Johnsons play in the background. We were shooting Gül in her apartment in Cihingir, a hip neighborhood of the city while the sun sank into the Golden Horn and muezzins called the faithful to prayer when suddenly she screamed in delight. Madame Muji, her beloved cat, had returned home after another day of philandering. 

Browse the entire Mad Metal Collection carried by Gul.

Ara Guler's Istanbul