by Irum Ibrahim (participant)
17 participants from all over the world came together in Istanbul for five days this October, to explore the many realms within the art of seeing.
Each and every one of us was there for a different reason. While one many have been a professional photographer who came to gain further knowledge from award-winning photographer Peter Sanders, another may have been an amateur who started taking photos, stopped, and came to revive their passion through the wisdom of Peter Sanders and the exquisiteness of Istanbul – the city of synchronicity.
The first day of the Art of Seeing workshop was filled with a wave of the unfamiliar sounds, scents, and scenery of Istanbul. The day began with a master class led by Peter Sanders in a cozy room inside the Istanbul Design Center, just two-three minutes away from the hotels of each participant. While awaiting the presence of our instructor, we were able to introduce ourselves to our peers and share our passion for capturing fleeting moments with one another. By the end of the day, we found ourselves immersed in the culture each participant brought with them (not only in the form of dessert for tea-time!) but through their stories, thoughts, and perception on certain matters at hand. After a relaxed but incredibly informative day, workshop participants were able to take part in a one-on-one session with Peter Sanders himself – a photographer whose words and example is enough to inspire others to strive to excel in anything they are passionate about pursuing.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to get to the Blue Mosque for Fajr prayer. At dawn, after the mosque was emptied to accommodate our photography lesson, we all gave ourselves a few minutes to take in the unsurmountable beauty that we were surrounded with. The light from the sun was creaking through the colorful stained glass mirrors, creating lines and curves that deserved to be appreciated through our eyes before our lens. We spent hours as silent observers of light – seeing how it seeps into the smallest of crevices and darkest of areas. It was truly magnificent. Later that day, we had the opportunity to meet internationally known Turkish photographer Ara Guler, often referred to as “the eye of Istanbul.” We met Guler at the Ara Cafe in Beyoglu, a trendy restaurant filled with the photographer’s art. 88-year-old Guler told us that photography is everywhere, it’s just a matter of capturing a moment before it passes. He emphasized the importance of documenting a hard life, and when asked why he chose to come back to Istanbul after traveling the world, he simply said, “because it’s my country.”
The third day of AOS Istanbul was filled with countless awe-inspiring moments. We started the day’s journey with a portrait-taking demonstration by Sidi Peter Sanders. We all used his technique for our own portrait shots – getting our subject comfortable with some small talk and compliments, taking our time, and letting the natural light guide our lens. Later in the day, in-between lunch and dinner, we briefly explored the Grand Bazaar and prayed maghrib at a breathtaking mosque near the Bosphorous – Yeni Cami. The night ended with a delicious, authentic Turkish dinner with the entire group. We reflected on our day, shared notes from the master class, and showed each other the best photos we captured throughout the day’s journey.
The fourth day was the most unforgettable. After attending our master class and having lunch at the Istanbul Design Center, we prayed dhuhr at the Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque and headed towards Fatih to get a feel of the area and capture what we find. The group was able to roam the streets, go to small shops, interact with shop owners and strangers, and compare the small town to Sultanahmet. After the photo walk, we all went on a breathtaking, two-hour long boat trip along the Bosphorous during golden hour. Each of us claimed that the light was not like anything we had seen before. By the time we arrived to the Ortakoy Mosque, the golden notes were touching each curve and crevice of the mosque beautifully. We captured what we saw and awaited the results.
On the concluding day of the workshop, we selected our three best shots and had an editing session with professional photographers, using Photoshop and Lightroom. We then showed the unedited versions to Sidi Peter for his input and constructive criticism. While some participants were asked to find photos aside from the three they chose, others were asked to makes simple edits to one of the three. At this point, we realized how much Sidi Peter had helped us in creating and developing our visual voice. After a day full of editing, we ended the last master class by compiling each participant’s final edited photo and played a slideshow of all the photos on the overhead screen. That night, we had dinner at a cafe with a beautiful rooftop view of Istanbul. All 21 participants received a certificate of completion, with Peter Sanders’ signature signed at the bottom.
Our conversations with one another, the precious time spent with Peter Sanders and his wife Hafsa, and the surreal places our lenses took us… All of it has changed the way we see things in one way or another, and for that, the AOS experience in Istanbul will forever remain a grand highlight of our lives.