World-renowned Turkish-Armenian photographer Ara Güler, nicknamed the “Eye of Istanbul,” passed away late Wednesday at the intensive care unit of the Florence Nightingale Hospital in Istanbul after attempts to revive him failed. He was 90.
For years he had suffered from kidney failure and underwent dialysis three times a week.
Born on August 16, 1926, Güler studied at Getronagan Armenian High School. His father owned a pharmacy, but had many friends that belonged to the world of art.
Guler’s work is included in the collections of institutions worldwide, such as Paris’s National Library of France; New York’s George Eastman Museum; Das imaginäre Photo-Museum; Museum Ludwig Köln; and Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery
He won several awards for his work, including Turkey’s Photographer of the Century, 1999; Master of Leica, 1962; France’s Légion d’honneur; Lifetime Achievement Lucie Award, 2009; and Turkey’s Grand Prize of Culture and Arts, 2005. In 2004, he was give honorary fellowship by Istanbul’s Yıldız Technical University.
He celebrated his 90th birthday with the opening of a museum named after him. In January, a street in his neighborhood was also named after him.
“I have always remained loyal to Istanbul,” Ara Güler had told the French newspaper Le Monde in the interview he gave for the opening of his exhibition in Paris.
Originally a film student who studied under Muhsin Ertuğrul, he eventually abandoned cinema in favor of journalism and, in 1950, while studying economics at University of Istanbul, started working as a photojournalist at the Turkish newspaper Yeni Istanbul.
In 1958, Güler became the first correspondent for Time-Life’s Turkey branch, which opened the door to publication in a number of other international magazines.
In 1961, he was hired by Hayat magazine as its chief photographer, and during that period met Marc Riboud and Henri Cartier-Bresson, who recruited him to join Magnum Photos. His work continued on to international acclaim, appearing in exhibitions in Germany and New York.
He has received a number of awards, including Turkey’s Photographer of the Century Award, in 1999; Master of Leica, in 1962; and France’s Légion d’honneur. He has also conducted interviews with such famous historic figures as Salvador Dali and Winston Churchill.
Today, his work can be found in the National Library of France, in Paris; New York’s George Eastman Museum; Das imaginäre Photo-Museum; Museum Ludwig Köln; and Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery.
Güler’s philosophy on photography attached great importance to the presence of humans in photography and considers himself a visual historian. According to him, photography should provide people with memory of their suffering and their life. He feels that art can lie but photography only reflects reality. He does not value art in photography, so he prefers photojournalism.