Imagine:  Istanbul, a Retrospective

In 2003, I went to Istanbul for the first time.  At the end of a day of photographing the beauty and magnificence of the city of Istanbul, I found a little shoe shine boy diligently working at his craft, perfecting the black shoe he was polishing.  I watched this little boy, fascinated.  He did not notice me.  I approached him and knelt down beside him.  He seemed frightened by my presence, but his eyes were large and dark; the most beautiful eyes in the world.  I did not speak his language, he did not speak mine, but I gestured to him with my fingers, saying "how much for a shoe shine?"  He answered me, "Two million lira." Showing him my camera, I asked him if I could take a photograph and understanding, he answered, "Yes" in a shy little voice in English, the only word he knew of my language.  I took three photographs of him. 

 The first photograph became, The Little Boy of Istanbul, No. 1.   For me, it captures beauty of this child's eyes, but also the fear I saw in them at that moment.  He was afraid of me, the stranger. 

 Six months later, I returned to Istanbul.  The purpose of my second trip was not to photograph the city or enjoy the pleasures of a tourist but rather the obscure objective of seeking out this little boy to give him the three photographs I had taken of him.  My reason for this was to give back what he had given me.  There is something in his eyes that captured my heart. Without speaking his language, without knowing his name or his address, I went searching for the little boy of Istanbul in the city of 15 million people. He was not in the place where I had originally found him.  It took me three days to find the little boy.  I gave him the photographs.  This is the story of my search for the little boy of Istanbul.  He is from Erzurum.It is also my introduction to his culture. 

Tanya K. Robb


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