German photojournalist sifts through the layers of Istanbul

german-photojournalist-with-on-going-projects-on-camel-wrestling-2010-11-24_l1.jpgThe offer of a full scholarship for a master’s program from a prestigious university brought photojournalist Claudius Schulze to Istanbul. After a nine-month period in which he gradually got to know the city, Schulze sought to see past the obvious and capture more original and personal shots of a multi-layered city in continual flux. His current work takes him as far afield as Diyabakır and to the camel-wrestling championships in Selçuk
Schulze (R) travels widely as a freelance photojournalist, but when he is back in Istanbul, his preferred spot for taking photos is at the Yeni Cami in Eminönü.
German photojournalist Claudius Schulze describes the area around the Yeni Cami in Eminönü as one of his favorite areas to photograph when he’s back in town. Nor is he alone in his preference of location, with renowned Turkish-Armenian photographer Ara Güler and U.S. photographer Alex Webb also shooting there.
 “If you wait there for half hour or one hour incredibly great things just happen in front of your camera. If I were to teach a photography workshop in Istanbul, I would definitely take my students there,” Schulze said.
 Schulze currently works as a professional photojournalist – freelancing for major German agency laif, newspapers such as Der Spiegel and Stern, and also publishing photos in Geo, GQ and Men’s Health.
 Despite having some pictures published in Turkey, Schulze said he never actively approached the Turkish media market due to its insufficient budget and frequent copyright breaches.
 “I had some pictures published in some Turkish newspapers. They don’t have a budget nor do they respect copyrights – you are badly paid and your work is stolen.”
 His adventures in Turkey began when he was offered a full scholarship by Sabancı University for a master’s in conflict analysis and resolution. Schulze took this as a perfect excuse to pack his bags and live in Istanbul for two years.
 Avoiding stereotypes
 During his stay in Istanbul, Schulze had already started experimenting as a photojournalist, publishing his photos in Turkish newspapers and exhibiting in a theater project in BeyoÄŸlu. Nonetheless, Schulze claims not to have shot the best pictures of Istanbul during his first nine month period in the city. He comments on the difficulties that photographers have experienced when they try and get to grips with Istanbul’s ever-evolving cityscape.
 “Istanbul is not an easy city to work in as a photographer – it is so full of stereotypes. You have to work hard to properly understand and gain access to the city. I know some photographers who have come here and left frustrated,” he said.
 Schulze considers himself lucky to have been able to find access to the city, despite being criticized by some Turkish friends for taking “orientalist” photographs.
 “They commented that there was a girl with a headscarf in many of my photographs. I hadn’t noticed, but when I went back to my photographs I saw that it was true. I hadn’t been waiting for them to appear – they were just there,” he said.
 Schulze describes the series of photos he shot in Istanbul as his most personal work. He comments on the multi-layered structure of Istanbul and explains that in order to get to know the city, its numerous layers must be slowly taken apart.
 “I needed time to understand the city and to avoid falling for the obvious pictures such as the ice-cream seller in İstiklal or the colored lamps in the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul is so much more than that. When you slowly take the layers of the city apart, you come to see what the city actually is,” he said.
 Free-lancing in Diyabakır
Schulze regularly goes to the southeastern province of Diyabakır to produce stories for German magazines. He describes how it is an area known for honor killings, its extreme poverty and clashes between the Turkish military and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Nonetheless, Schulze comments on the warmth of the people and his preference for covering lesser known topics such as the conflicts of the Syriac Christians that also live in the region.
 “I do magazine stories on the problems and conflicts of the Syriac Christians that live in the region. The Christian communities that are living there are among the oldest in the world – it’s something different to the usual coverage of the Turkish military’s conflict with the PKK,” he said.
 Interest in camel wrestling
 Schulze also has an on going project on the camel wrestling season that normally runs every year from late November to early February.
 “I was asking myself recently how I learnt about the topic. I remember thinking that it sounded incredibly bizarre before I went to see it for the first time in Selçuk in 2008. It’s fascinating because it’s a non-sport – there is no winner,” he said.
 For the time being, Schulze travels back and forth between Istanbul and Brussels. He comments on the rapidly changing cityscape and notes that if he were to ever find a project in Istanbul, he wouldn’t hesitate in staying