13-9-2018 - Ali Öz: "Tarlabaşı: A Defiled Istanbul District"

Ali Öz: "Tarlabaşı: A Defiled Istanbul District"          Openig date: 13-9-2018, 8pm   

ENEKEN Cultural Center - 37, Proxenou Koromila str - Thessaloniki/Greece

with the collaboration of Photography Center of Thessaloniki, in the frame of Aspects of Balkan Photography 2018


Right in the heart of İstanbul, a neighbourhood is being torn down!

The streets that make up the physical fabric of the neighbourhood, the buildings that give colour to those streets, its houses, its workplaces, and the men, women, and children who live there… a thousand and one varieties of life are being destroyed/annulled.

Tarlabaşı is being sacrificed in the name of “gentrification”!

Tarlabaşı: A Defiled Istanbul District brings us face to face with this process in its all vividness, a poignant reality which is hardly aesthetic.

Ali Öz, a veteran photographer, practically lived in Tarlabaşı for two years. He has recorded the “destruction/annulment” process that the city and the neighbourhood have suffered frame by frame.  He has revealed on every corner the face of Tarlabaşı, which has suddenly just been “vaporised” in the name of “urban renewal”, street after street, step by step - from the Azerbaijani to the Pakistani and the African; from those who sought refuge in İstanbul after the Bingöl earthquake to the stuffed mussels sellers; from the coffee-houses to the beer-houses, bars and cheap night clubs.    

Through his lens, Öz has captured more than thirty thousand images of Tarlabaşı and its residents, whose lives he accompanied and whose destinies he witnessed for exactly one and a half years, day and night, in the hot and in the cold. After a small selection of his work was published on social media, the reality of Tarlabaşı became publicly known.

Tarlabaşı: A Defiled Istanbul District, is a witness to how the city, neighbourhoods, streets and people have been defiled and lost.         

Allan B. Jacobs says, “The best streets are those that can be remembered. They leave strong, long-continuing positive impressions. Thinking of a city, including one’s own, one might well think of a particular street and have a desire to be there; such a street is memorable… The best     [streets] are as joyful as they are utilitarian. They are entertaining and they are open to all. They permit anonymity at the same time as individual recognition.  They are symbols of a community and of its history; they represent a communal memory.”

While our urban, historical and communal symbols and memories are being destroyed, we look once again upon our losses and our disgrace.



He graduated from Ankara Political Sciences Press and Information Collegiate School, Radio and Television Department.

He started to take photograph with a camera and aggrandizer that he had purchased with limited money in 1979. He considered photograph as the nearest communication implement for him, and summarized his feelings in one of the conversation that was made with him many years ago as follows: “The human is able to endure starving, but not loveless, passionless and purposeless. My love to humans focused on Art of Photograph and this became the most indirect and the most concrete instrument for me to call.”

In his youth, he worked in social politic areas for many years, the years that he spent in cooperatives and syndicates became a mainspring to establish his unique opinion standpoint.

After that Ali Öz set his heart on press photographer and affected most of his colleagues with his working energy and self-sacrifice. With his words he takes politic documentary photograph and this is a kind of duty for him. For this reason it is possible to see him in every social event in Turkey.

In turn, Ali Öz worked in Nokta, Güneş, Milliyet, Cumhuriyet, Aktüel, Tenpo and NTV MAG magazine and he has been working as free photographer.

The subject of his photographs that he took where he went with various reasons in countries of Asia, Europe, Africa and America is: Working man, producing man, helpless man, because with his own words “he likes man and he fights for his own battle for the ones that he loves.”

He has some exhibitions and dia shows in the country an in abroad. His awards are as follows:

1980- BYYO Photograph Competition, Second Rank and three mentions.

1981- BYYO Photograph Competition, Third Rank and Five Mentions.

1981-AFSAD Portrait Competition, one mention

1983- The most successful Journalist of the Year of Contemporary Journalist Association (Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği )

1984- Ankara Contemporary Journalist Association the award of the Press Photograph.

1984- AFSAD Success award of the Press Photographs.

1986- AFSAD Success award

1987- Eyüp Municipality, Press Encouragement Award for the Municipality News

1988- Photograph Associations, 1st National Photograph Competition, IFSAK Photojournalism Award.

1988- 1st International Black Humor Competition, The Right of to participate the exhibition. 1991- Journalist Association, The success award of Turkey Journalist in Periodical Branch

1992- Contemporary Journalist Association Istanbul Branch, The best photograph award of the “City and Life” Competition

1992- Be & Ze The best photograph award of the City and Life

1992- The special award of The Ministry of Culture, Newspaper Photographer Association

1998- TDV (Democracy Foundation of Turkey) the photograph named as “The Mother of Metin” awarded by the right of participate the exhibition.

1999- Action Time “99 Photograph Competition” First and second Ranks.

2002- Fuji Film Photograph Competition “Traffic” subjected, First Rank Reward. 



İstanbul does not await its own earthquake. It enacts its own earthquake, its own tsunami.  The ground is liquidified, Sulukule, Fikirtepe, Başıbüyük, Tarlabaşı, Taksim sinkholes collapse; like a carpet pulled from under our feet. Like theories of black holes, we witness the transformation of matter to negative antimatter. The physical change of matter is real but its perception is a metaphysical paradox. In reality, the indirect process of reflection that involves nerve-ends, neurons and chemical-electrical transference in the brain cells and the associative network that is involved in the perception of the matter, reactions turns into crisis. What is solid vaporises but our imminent perception is not of a physical one; our biological set up takes comfort in mystical explanations.

In fact, parallel to the transformation of the matter, we go through the transformation of the world “as we know it.” If only “cognitive” processing could be developed spontaneously through education and social learning, each organism could internalize this dialectic transformation without any problem.  Child body, when encounters fire for the first time,  need not find out about burning through direct experience.  However, when the fire is invisible as in radioactivity or viral cases, in any other code than the ones we know, the situation becomes more complex and therefore, building awareness becomes more caustic.

Last millenium’s main distortion of perception, as phrased by Marx, was the spirit of working class that haunted us.  What is now consuming us is the re-emergence of  Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”.

The abstract presence of money in neoliberal world, smashes, distorts and reconstructs the order we know. We were accustomed to this Martian invasion scenario through Hollywood movies but what we could not grasp then was the virtualness on the blue screen that in fact, was an illusion of reality that existed in everyday life.

We become aware when we get “burnt”.  Homeless, liquid capital wraps around our globe; invades our cities. Paris- Hausmann 1860 model smashes and burns, enabling technology is used to expedite transport of goods, raw material and finished products in between ports and other centers.

If subway is needed then subway, if airport needed a larger one, faster trains, roads, cars, telephones, computers turn into speed of light. Money turns to goods, goods turn into money.  Shelves at the malls, showcases fill up and get emptied with speed.  Shopping carts get bigger, invisible hand quickly and artfully empties our pockets (our bodies today), steals and destroys our tomorrow (our invisible next-bodies) through loans.   People get burnt, die, commit suicide and insanely kill others. Money piles up somewhere, accumulates, and behind these crystal towers, new organisms shape up. The result is clear; what we do not perceieve beforehand, we have to live and experience directly. Fire burns, be it out of ice, laser or steel; knife cuts.

The interconnection is clear. Not a case of cause and effect. The case of “death” the bio-organism experiences; no matter how much the rhetoric (in art or politics) distorts the perception through its play with words, is a race of “to be or not to be.” From this perspective, “homelessness” of the body is a historical, material and physical reality symbolised with the wall that  stands as the flat line that defines the border between existence and death.

This wall is not the “iron curtain” that tumbled down in Berlin. This wall is in Gazza, in every metropol, every neighborhood. It is erected everyday out of cement, galvanised metal, MDF, hardboard; construction walls; concrete walls of shame. This wall is the safety wall that surrounds real estate ventures; this is a wall that keeps people from touching each other; a wall of incommunication, of fear and deconstruction.

Ali Öz shows us behind the wall; smashes its door, enters the cells underneath its skin. He touches the flesh of this organism; touches its blood, breath, voice and its skin.  He makes us feel the way the organism holds on to life and its passion for life despite everything against it.

Since the 70s, Ali Öz has been a witness in the middle of every social clash, every demolition, every time the truth cries out loud.  The of heat of every event puts a mist on his lens. His frames smell of humanity. He is not after the details but after the conflicts. He takes risks, carries responsibility. He does not give in to any prejudice. He makes photo journalism an art. He does not take a neutral stand but he is objective. He cannot be sold. He weighs his subject from the point-of-view of the truth and he does not try to add aesthetics to it. He focuses on people. He is after the unexposed and not the unforgetten. He navigates towards search for justice. He looks for evidence until he is satisfied. He is never a flâneur. For him, the third eye is divine. Takes gathers the truth and spreads it in the name of justice. He is either on the streets or in front of the Internet. He seeks justice when shooting photos, not when he is sharing them. His does not sell his art.

He pierces through the rhetoric and artificial aesthetics of the make-believe world. The line Ali draws, on the axis of Beyoğlu, is as certain and real as the difference between white walls of the the hospital-like  aesthetic clinics and the colourful, dirty and vibrant colours of Tarlabaşı that reek of life despite all deathly odds. Here even lies are real. Here Kurdish, Arabic, Roman, idealist, revolutinist, Assyrian, Alevite, Orthodox, Muslim, Sudanese, Nigerian, British, police, killer, cat, dog, rooster, “whore”, “gay” are all real. Every one is Metin Kaçan, every one is Küçük İskender.

In Ali’s Tarlabaşı, one is born every morning, one goes to work every day, one sits at a rakı table every evening and one dies every night. Here are the slums of Mumbai, Slams of Rio, 21 grams’s of Mexico, Marcos’s of Chiepaz, all the condemned of the world are here, nightmares in our sleeps, zombies in our movies, workers in our strikes. We are the clarnet players in your night, cigarette sellers by your car window, bellydancers on  your table, sanitary workers that sweep your trash. You cannot get rid of us, we cannot be dislodged; we are your shadow, your subconcious. We will always be here at 1st of May, at Newroz. We are your alter-ego that you come across at the Fight Club, your sustainable “organic” human side.

Some times stuffed mussels, kokoretsi, sometimes the sharp blade of a knife and sometimes the truth is what you get. Do not be afraid to touch Ali’s people; as a result, your communication skills, your aethetics, your art will improve.