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PHOTOJOURNALIST: The Life Story of Ara Guler, by Nezih Tavlas Featured

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"Nezih Tavlas's book ‘Photojournalist’ details Ara Güler's life, by providing chronological details starting from the day he was born up until now, and also includes dialogue with Guler as well as photographs from his family albums."

Magnum Consortium

Photojournalist, a book by Nezih Tavlas, provides a compelling and in-depth look into the life of Ara Güler who is regarded as one of the most accomplished documentary photographers of the 20th century and the pioneer of photojournalism in Turkey.

The book lists all of Guler’s professional accomplishments while also providing rare insight into his personal life and his photographic legacy amounts to over two million stories told.

Born into a Turkish-Armenian family in Istanbul in 1928, Ara Güler who has been given the nickname, "The Eye of Istanbul" and also described as “one of the most important living representatives of creative photography today.”

Born into a Turkish-Armenian family in Istanbul in 1928, Ara Güler has been described as “one of the most important living representatives of creative photography today.”

Güler’s photographic work started being published in the late 1950s and early 1960s; his work has been displayed at many of the world’s major art centers, including New York, London and Paris. He has published many books on his work and is the recipient of many awards and honors.

Many examples of Güler’s photographic work are to be found in institutions such as the French National Library in Paris and the Sheldon Collection at Nebraska University, as well as in private collections in Boston, Chicago and New York. His photographs are also displayed at the Ludwig Museum and at Das Imaginare Photo-Museum, both in Cologne.

Güler’s international reputation is well-established after spending nearly 60 years in journalism, starting in 1950, from where he went on to become a photojournalist for Time-Life in 1956 and for Paris Match and Stern in 1958. Around the same time, he joined the Magnum Agency. The British Journal of Photography Year Book published in the U.K. in 1968 named Güler as one of the seven best photographers in the world. In 1962, he received the Leica Master award in Germany and French Legion of Honor.

Ara Güler, arguably Turkey’s most eminent photographer, impressively portrayed life in the city of Istanbul, his birthplace and home, for over 60 years. He is world famous for his incomparable black-and-white /images of the metropolis on the shores of the Bosporus from the 1950s and 1960s. Ara Güler, 87, is also well known for his work as a reporter and photojournalist covering political affairs around the world and for his photographic interviews with many prominent politicians and artists of the period, from Ansel Adams, Louis Aragon, John Berger, Willy Brandt, Erskine Caldwell, Maria Callas, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marc Chagall, Winston Churchill, Imogen Cunningham, Salvador Dali, Federico Fellini, Indira Gandhi, Alfred Hitchcock, Dustin Hoffman, Danny Kaye, Elia Kazan, Aram Khachaturian, Josef Koudelka, Sophia Loren, Henry Luce, Arthur Miller, Vincente Minelli, Aristotle Onassis, Pablo Picasso, Jean Renoir, Marc Riboud,  Bertrand Russell, Sebastiao Salgado, William Saroyan, Mother Teresa, Arnold Toynbee, John Updike, Orson Welles and Tennessee Williams.

“We are pleased to announce that the valuable work called "Photojournalist- Life Story of Ara Guler" manifested through the diligent comprehensive approach and qualified penmanship of Nezih Tavlas and which portrays the exemplary artistry and inspirational struggle of survival of Ara Guler who is our internationally renown master of observation and the objective has been selected BOOK OF THE MONTH and we would like to extend our gratitude to Ara Güler, our great artist for many more years."

The Board of PEN International Turkey

From the Author

During the time that  I was writing Ara Guler's biography I spent more than 3 years (2007-2009) with him. Initially, he was irritated by being the subject, but later, he got used to it and gave his blessing for my work.

Wherever Ara Güler is on the globe, people are at the core of his photographic scope; some are known by everyone and some are only ordinary people.

He reveres and brings the person in the focus to the foreground.

He shoots these frames with love and adoration:

Ara Güler knows everyone he photographs: where they have come from, what they do, their hopes, and concerns, thus magically he knows which position and which pose would reflect them the best. For he believes in photography to be a magic that will encapsulate and transmit a moment of our flowing life to the future times.

Ara Güler is one of the, not only Turkey's but the world's, best.

What puts him in the same league with Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Henri Cartier Bresson and Paul Strand like representatives of photographic realism as much as his life-long career, intellectual knowledge and outbursts putting philosophers to shame are his amateur enthusiasm, curiosity, and his boyishness and romanticism that he has been able to maintain.

And of course, Ara Güler's photographs explain a lot. Each portrait, national and international, bears a potential for pages and pages of comments. Each Ara Güler frame carries the clues of his authorship, wisdom, theatricality.

Therefore unexceptionally every image from his lenses tell everyone that "This is an Ara Güler photograph"

The sensitivity reflected in his /images, the flawless compositions and the splendid esthetics are his real signature.

Despite all this romanticism, Ara Güler never departs from realism for he sees himself as a photojournalist, a man chronicling history by his camera.

Ara Güler believes photojournalism, that he has exercised all his life, to be not just covering events but to convey to the future generations the life, art, customs and traditions of the times and what people do, their sorrows and joys.

Hence, looking at Ara Güler's photographs one sees the history of Turkey, of İstanbul, of the people of Turkey.

Sample Pages

You can look at sample pages of Photojournalist: The Life Story of Ara Guler.


As the pages of this book narrating the life of the legendary name in photography Ara Guler turn, you will evidence the underlying 80-year history of Turkey in passage.

You will hold your breath as you read the incredible tales that Ara Guler encountered throughout his life as he ran after wars, coups, civilizations, disasters and people which changed the fate of the world.

These pages bear witness to the efforts and the price Master Ara Guler ended up paying to be able to be in the right place at the right time...

Following Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Henri CartierBresson and Paul Strand, the representatives of the realism movement in photography in the world, Ara Guler, who was raised on the soil of Turkey, claimed his rightful place among these legendary names. His photo-interviews were a cause célèbre because he focused his lens on the individual and photographed the individual without eliminating reality, yet managed to include a similar proportion of esthetics in his work.

The Editor-in-Chief of Magnum Agency, James A. Fox, described Ara Guler as, “Above all else he is a generous, elegant and witty man. He is one of the best storytellers I know. His life like the lives of many well-known photojournalists is full of anecdotes. These are the living memories of this century which are never reflected on film and only partially caught on camera”.

It is evident from the words of Ugur Mumcu, the master of investigative journalism in Turkey, how ideal the name of Nezih Tavlas was in rounding up the ‘living memories’ of a giant such as Ara Guler and writing about his life when he said, “The number of those involved in investigative journalism in Turkey can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Underdevelopment is rife in this area as well. Nezih Tavlas is one of these few journalists”.

Nezih succeeded after arduous labor. I introduced them both. Perhaps it was because both were journalists their frequency synced right away. Ara who was known by all as a rough ride unthawed there and then. He did something he had never done with anyone else before: he opened his heart and his archive. He gave his letters, his works, his notebooks, everything that he had never shared with anyone to Nezih. I enjoyed watching their debates based on an immediate mutual trust which was often accompanied with laughter.

But do not think it was simple; there is no such thing as “Ara narrated and Nezih wrote”. I have personally witnessed Nezih working for days and hours in the National Library, the Library of the Turkish Historical Society over one word uttered by Ara. When you look at the reference section at the end of the book you will see what I mean. They did not have the opportunity to meet whenever they wanted because they lived in different cities. Nezih used his weekends and annual leave to meet at every opportunity and when that was not possible he took advantage of telephone calls which lasted for hours. However, he always did his homework regarding the era they were working on; he put newspaper clippings from the relevant times, tickets, carnets, photographs, whatever he could lay his hands on to facilitate remembering and put them in his case. Like a detective he asked hundreds of questions to uncover the tiniest issue. Although Ara could get frustrated at times, with this method Nezih was able to shed light on many issues and put them in chronological order. In fact this was instrumental in supplementing Ara’s archive with works and news items that he did not have.

During the interviews which lasted for days and hours and which I observed with interest, I frequently heard Ara’s surprised exclamation of ‘how do you know that? Or ‘who told you?’ There were features that Nezih delivered for which he would say ‘don’t write that’ and he would respect it.

Nezih, who Ara would introduce everywhere we went as “My biographer”, is one of those people who are not keen on having their names and personalities exposed to the public which is why he delegated the writing of the preface to me and asked me to extend his appreciation for all those who were involved in the book.

I am thrilled to have transmitted to you the life of a legend such as Ara Guler whom I have had the honor of working with for 10 years.

On every page you turn you will feel that terrific ‘sense of humor’ Master Ara has in his outlook on life and you will evidence that the unforgettable frames which have been embedded in our minds were not generated merely as a result of chance or coincidence.

Hasan Senyuksel

About the Author

Nezih Tavlas took up photography while a student at the faculty of journalism and public relations in the 1980s. As a reporter his news photos had been published in both national and international magazines & newspapers. When his 18-year journalism career has taken him to war zones such as Iraq, Somalia he ended his career as a journalist but he continues to take documentary photos from street and daily life...

PHOTOJOURNALIST: The Life Story of Ara Guler, by Nezih Tavlas

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