Battle Scars.

This week, while Ville was in South Africa (to introduce Turkish Ministry of Justice officials and law faculty deans to new methods of access to justice, and to Clinical Legal Education), my sister Hellen and two of her four boys came to stay. Hellen living in the UK, and me in Istanbul, I don't get to see her (or any of my other 7 siblings) half as much as I would like.

I loved getting the chance to document Hellen's loveliness this week. I love the texture of her skin as she gets older and the depth of her personality. I love that her beauty is not frivolous but forged through 37 years of trying to do right by herself and others. Around the time I first arrived in Istanbul Hellen had to give birth to a baby whose heart had already stopped beating. A couple of weeks later she sent me a picture of her holding her lifeless daughter in her arms. It is an amazing example of the power of photographs. Hellen, on what I am sure remains the worst day of her life, dared to look at her daughter and document her own pain. With that photograph she declared that her daughter was a real character in her story, and that her death would not be left unspoken.

I was thinking about that picture a lot this week after my friend Jo posted a self-portrait of her new haircut in preparation for her baby daughter's funeral. The power of the picture was immense. A marker on the journey to recovery from such devastating loss. I felt such pride in her for facing the camera. A few days later she carried her daughter's coffin into the church. A true hero of her own story. And a beautiful one at that.

When editing pictures it is too easy to remove the depth that been hard won through thousands of tiny victories. You can slide away definition in a stroke. Every day, looking at photographs, I see teenagers and children whose documenters have chosen to given them skin so flawless it has ceased to exist. Girls on the cusp of womanhood have all the character removed from their skin, and then their eyes sharpened and saturated. My own skin is a messy patchwork thanks to 'teenage' acne that lasted well past my first grey hairs, and heavy brown pigmentation that appears with every pregnancy and period of stress, and in between. It's hard to face the camera but I am equally determined not to edit my life away. While we were sharing a glorious moment, eating breakfast over-looking the Bosphorus, Hellen said that we are still beautiful but the range has become much greater: catch us in harsh light on a bad day and we can be ugly. I like this idea of having greater range, despite it being hard to see in the mirror.

Early on Sunday morning Ville arrived home full of tales of incredible heroes. We all felt overwhelmed by his experiences. While he slept off a night spent flying I dressed Neve in a Zulu necklace, fresh from Africa, and Hellen and I took the kids to dance to street musicians on Istiklal Street. Neve bears battle scars from a week in which she learnt to hold her own against her same-age cousin, and there is no way I am editing them away.

Ceiling of Şişhane metro station.

Candles for Alma.

Oskar.

Wonder.

Shop window, Vefa.

Suleymaniye Camii.

Vefa.

Big street.

Pip.

Oskar.

Autumn.

Crunchy leaves.

Cousins chasing.

Conversation.

Chatting.

Neve at the Archaeological Museum.

Yıldız Palace.

Posh breakfast.

Yıldız Palace.

Mother and Son.

Shared moment.

Hellen and Oskar.

Loved.

Breakfast at Istanbul Modern.

Me!

My sister.

Hellen.

Kisses.

Karaköy to Hasköy.

Fleeting friendship.

Hellen and P.

At Koç Teknik Muzesi.

Oskar in a bursting bubble.

On the Golden Home.

Looking for jellyfish.

Eminönü.

Hellen on the Golden Horn.

Sufi graveyard.

Paths.

Our little ones.

Snack break.

Sufi museum.

5 of our 8 kiddos.

Oskar (and Matti!).

Zulu necklace.

Hug.

Watching street musicians.

Matti.

Tünel.

Galip Dede.

Galip Dede to the Golden Horn.

Oskar.


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16 thoughts on “Battle Scars.

  1. Your an inspiration Julia sigh your photos are breathtaking as always. I love what you have written. It saddens me too to see photographs where the skin has become doll like and eyes become cyber eyes. There is so much character in peoples lines and skin. Love seeing all the lovely shots of you too by the way. How special to spend time with family.

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  2. wow. just wow. your words brought me to tears (honestly) and your photographs are just as breathtaking. what a wise, gentle and talented soul you are Julia!!!! i love everything you wrote - what a wonderful sister relatiosnhip you have too! just loved all of this.

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  3. anna COOKE14:45

    Julia, you really should be writing for a really good national newspaper. your insights into people are really worth reading and mulling them over in your mind. And these beautiful captures of real life are just breathtaking. Absolutely amazing!!

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  4. I shed a few tears as well, you do have a way with words Julia...and photos, the ones in this post are gorgeous. Both you and your sister are beautiful and it is indeed lovely to see you both in the photos you have posted. There are so many wonderful photos here, but it has to be said that the one of Neve touching hands with the lady through the window is special, such a precious moment captured.

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  5. I'm sending you love from South Africa. We just moved back to our homeland 2 months ago after living in Istanbul! Your pictures always touch me and reach deep down inside me stirring all kinds of emotions. Thank you for talking to us with your pictures! Big South African hug!!!

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  6. Beautiful set of photos, Julia! You always make me feel like I am right there with you. Your lighting is perfect. I love that you incorporated both B&W and color this time. You are an inspiration. :-)

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  7. Ahhh you people are the best! Thank you so much. Especially nice to get a hug from South Africa. Lots of love to you all. xxxxxx

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  8. Sara Macdonald01:14

    Wow. Beautiful! Your images always have such emotion. Such a talent.

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  9. Ella Broderick00:59

    Thank you for sharing and inspiring x

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  10. oh my goodness, such amazing photos and beautiful words. You and your sister are so beautiful [those eyes!!] and those kids you have both made are equally as lovely. Love the b & w this week xxx

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  11. Julia, I really wish you wouldn't post so many wonderful photographs at once. I find it completely overwhelming!
    I wish there was an option to comment on them individually as there are so many that I would like to commend or comment on or just ask you how? what? where?!
    So, instead I will start with your words. What wise, beautiful, sensible and honest words they are. Do you journal? I hope so. I can just see a grown-up Neve (and perhaps a million others!) reading her mother's journals in a very different world from our's and being inspired by them :)
    And now to the pictures... So many pictures! Firstly, you and your sister are both BEAUTIFUL, and I can't imagine you looking bad in any light. I'm sure it wouldn't make the Turks happy to hear, but on the other side of the Aegean, you'd be considered Goddesses! Secondly, you never fail to leave me yearning for Istanbul. How lucky are you to have all those Ottoman jewels as backdrops for your photos. Also, I think I might have to introduce a regular Turkish breakfast into our weekend routine. Ekmek, bal, yumurta, peynir, salata... all things that T loves to eat, but he never has them on the same plate.
    And lastly, your attention to the light AND the shadow is meticulous as always. It's something that most of us aspire to achieve in our 'still lives' but can only dream of when shooting moving subjects. Well done!

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  12. Argh! Julia I just wrote a lovely long comment that Blogger sent into the abyss. This is a gorgeous post, but I will try again later to properly comment.

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  13. Julia, You are amazing..…your writing, your photography, your beauty, your warmth. All of it. Simply amazing.

    Tarnya is right, so many wonderful photos in one post that I am overwhelmed (in a good way)! There are a few that stopped me in my tracks:
    • The one of Neve at Yildiz Palace – her expression, her outfit, the mood/light, all just perfect.
    • The 3rd from the bottom – on my goodness, this one is brilliant! That light!! I am jealous of this one :-)
    • The bottom photo – another brilliant shot!

    Another awe-inspiring post! I feel so lucky to have you in my world xx

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  14. Julia, this is literally about the fourth time I have tried to comment on this post. Something (including the kids) always seems to happen.

    How heartbreaking for your sister and your friend; I cannot even begin to imagine the difficult times they have been through, but what a blessing for you to have such wonderful strong women in your life and for them to have you. I know that I certainly feel truly blessed that we stumbled across each other's blogs and we only get to wave at each other across a few bodies of land and water.

    This has to be the most stunning post I have seen from you. Your beautiful words and photographs compliment each other so well. I have to admit to the fact that it definitely brought more than a tear to my eye.

    You are so right about your sister being beautiful (you two have some seriously good genes going on) and about the use of editing; in fact I was having that very conversation with my hubby the other day about the fact that, even if I could, I wouldn't take away my little crows feet from a recent photograph of me and the children at a wedding because if they were taken away I wouldn't look half as happy.

    Thank you again for another stunning post. I always look forward to your new work.

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  15. Absolutely beautiful words. You have a real gift.
    So many stunning images too. So many! Your sister is beautiful.
    YOU + your new camera = an unstoppable force!

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  16. Sinem14:24

    I liked "our little ones" most, its shows begging and end of the life!
    Maybe the end is the begging who knows?

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