11 March, 2010

Ulus revisited, and revisited again...

Ulus is the old heart of sprawling Ankara, the linked by the axis of Atatürk Bulvari to the new centers Kızılay and Çankaya. If you want to see how all these line up on a city map...

The statue of Atatürk is hard to miss - but can you find the simitçi?

For LAUD 322, People and Environment, i am working with a partner in a small group of students observing and analyzing life in Ulus - specifically, in the area immediately around the Citadel, centered on Atpazarı square. And i can't get enough of Ulus. It is so much more real than any place else i have been, with the exception of Jamaica Plain in Boston. What do i mean by real? That little things here are big. A child's dreams in the face of poverty have such larger stakes than in a child's dreams in the lap of privilege.

I promise to post more on this particular thread of thought soon - when i have time to compose the morning's observations and summarize my talk with two men who brought me so much closer to daily life in Ulus. But for now there is hurried laundry to do, an old friend chance encountered to meet for dinner - and a bus to Antalya late tonight!

For the moment... as you can see, i am obsessed with simitçi. It is partly the uniqueness and art of carrying things on one's head, partly the challenge of photographing a moving target amid the city's bustle. I wonder what life is like for them, the daily routine, what hopes or dreams they have. How does one become a simitçi? But what drives this photographic quest most of all is that to me, simitçi represent the essence of Ankara life, of life in any place - hard to miss, harder still to capture. This next image is the closest i've gotten. Modern building, mosque, spiral staircase, crazy parking situation, blooming apple tree, street vendors cooking under their umbrella, flag of Turkiye - and simitçi.The only thing missing is the sura, Arabic call to prayer, echoing off the buildings, tinny, and the forty or fifty older men standing on rugs on the sidewalk, bowed toward the noon sun twenty minutes later. It seemed disrespectful to take a casual photograph of that.

near Posta Caddesi