I don’t like sourvenirs. I don’t like buying them for family and friends (not to mention colleagues!), and I don’t fancy receiving them (coz that means I would be obliged to buying something in return). How can you share the view and emotion that you have felt with all your senses? How can I possibly share how it feels to walk down the back street in a city you’ve never been to before, or not even met anybody from before, worrying maybe some local people may throw nasty look at you, and you get to shake hands of people and talk to people who live and work on that street, offer you a cup of tea as they do to their guests? How can I bring it home? I just don’t know any way I can. So I photograph. I tell my story. Small made-in-China plastic model of the largest mosque just can’t tell you anything about what you go through when you are a traveller. Sure, it may be a little different if you are a tourists. But I think I’ve talked about it before, so let’s drop it, for now…
In my shoe closet is this pair of shiny, rather dark-coloured, Merrill’s. I doubt anyone, not a single person on this planet, has a pair in the same colour as mine. I saw someone yesterday who had the same model shoes on. He had them in the original colour. Just now, walking back home from a walk around the corner feeling the heat of the sun on my back, I thought about that day. It was a hot day, too. I remember talking about my polarised sunglasses and his shiny ones.
I met Ali and Tanju while walking around Tophane. I was just photographing some local old men chatting on the benches, sipping tea, maybe talking about football. Then I came around the corner and here they were. Their professional instincts made them look at my feet, but I was dressed in a loose, light summer chirts, buggy shoes, tiny socks and this pair of Merrill slippers. Our eyes met and we were all smiling, so we started to chat. What are you doing, I’m photographing, where are you from, all that usual stuff. Then I commented on the cool sunnies and offered to photograph. They had flip phones and I cannot remember they had an email address to send the photo to. Maybe it was Facebook they had. Everyone had a Facebook account around here even when they don’t use email. Crazy.
It was a pleasure that these guys allowed me to photograph them. They may be traveling or even migrating workers. It must be tough working as one of many shoe polishers in this town. They thanked me for photographing and I thanked them. They were so nice that they wanted to do something in return, and offered to polish my shoes. My street Merrills’. So that’s how I got my shiny pair of dark Merrill slippers. I should apply some leather milk and polish it up again a bit, instead of putting it in the shelf until another casual summer day’s walk call for them. But this kind of small item that reminds me of the pleasure of traveling, I don’t mind having in my apartment at all.