architecture

Photographer reveals the hidden colors of suburban Istanbul

Updated 16th October 2018
Photographer reveals the hidden colors of suburban Istanbul
Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
Voice Memo is a series of phone conversations between CNN Style journalists and image-makers around the world. Click here for more.
If Istanbul only conjures images of domed roofs, stone minarets and Byzantine churches, then you've never seen the city through Yener Torun's lens.
Whether picturing vibrant tower blocks against clear skies, or delighting in small architectural details, the 35-year-old photographer depicts the Turkish metropolis as a crayon-colored playground.
Yener Torun's idealized vision of suburban Istanbul.
Yener Torun's idealized vision of suburban Istanbul. Credit: Yener Torun
"You've seen the historical, the ancient, the nostalgic part of the city," he said in a phone interview. "Those kind of photographs are really nice -- I like them too. But right (from) the beginning I wanted to do something different."
Scouring the outskirts of the city, Torun only has one precondition when selecting buildings to capture: that they're brightly colored. He then uses clever compositions to reveal the structures' hidden geometries -- staircases creeping angularly towards entranceways, or the patterned cladding of suburban facades.
A former architectural designed, Torun highlights colorful cladding and other design features.
A former architectural designed, Torun highlights colorful cladding and other design features. Credit: Yener Torun
But the photographer, who has lived in Istanbul since 2001, is under no illusion that his portrayal is an entirely accurate one (he is open about using Photoshop to beautify the images and boost their saturated hues). Nor does he claim that the images are even representative of the neighborhoods they were taken in.
"Tourists wouldn't go there, and I wouldn't suggest they do," he admitted.

Suburbs in flux

The images may present an unrealistically sunny portrait of life in the suburbs, but they also shine a rare light on neighborhoods undergoing rapid change. Istanbul's population has doubled since the early 1990s, and it is the outer city that has absorbed the bulk of this growth.
Torun estimates that most of the buildings in his photos are less than five years old.
The photos reveal the patterns and geometries hidden among the buildings of outer Istanbul.
The photos reveal the patterns and geometries hidden among the buildings of outer Istanbul. Credit: Yener Torun
"It's kind of ever-changing," he said of Istanbul's fringes. "So many people are migrating to the city, so there's always demand for new housing -- and new technologies and approaches to architecture (are) also changing.
"But you don't see it in the (city center), because these things happen in the developing part of the city -- its the outskirts, the borders."
His sharp eye for structural forms results from almost eight years working as an architectural designer. During his time in the industry, Torun worked primarily on residential buildings -- the very type he now posts on his Instagram account, which the images were initially made for.
Many of Torun's images depict residential buildings.
Many of Torun's images depict residential buildings. Credit: Yener Torun
With their bold lines and flattened perspective, the pictures are clearly well-suited to the platform (where he has over 150,000 followers). And while Torun now sells prints and exhibits at international photography fairs, his playful images are simply designed to please.
It's a symptom, perhaps, of the photographer's sanguine disposition.
"Your work is kind of a reflection of yourself, I guess," he said. "So I'm trying to spread some positive vibes through my work. I think it's kind of part of my personality too."