20 Feb 2008

Photography in bars and cafes

Not counting India, which is in a league of its own, there are three places in the world that really press my button - places where you can almost feel the buzz and vitality coming up through the pavements beneath your feet. The first is New York, then Hong Kong. The third, and possibly my favourite, is Istanbul.
How could any photographer go to Istanbul and not find visual stimulation? The buildings,the skyline, the boats on the Bosphorus, the markets. But, for me, best of all the people. I have always found the people of Turkey to be kind and helpful.
The picture above shows a man smoking his hookah, better known in the West as a hubble-bubble - in a cafe on the old Galatta Bridge. It was taken before this fascinating bridge with its double-deck of shops and cafes was burned down. Probably by someone sat in a cafe smoking a hookah.
I just walked into this cafe because it looked interesting, and ordered a glass of that wonderful Turkish coffee that is so strong and thick you can stand a spoon up in it. Within a short time, people were asking where I was from, introducing themselves and trying to speak English.
Now you must judge these situations very carefully when you are in a strange new place, but all my senses told me there was nothing to fear in this cafe. I started to take photographs and some of the customers insisted that I took pictures of them. One man borrowed my camera to photograph me with the owners of the cafe. I was even prevailed upon to take a pull on a hookah which damned near killed me. I still have that out-of-focus shot as a happy memento.
The photograph from the cafe that pleased me most was of the man sat quiety puffing away on his hookah beneath the faded pictures on the wall.
The picture was taken with a Nikon F3 with a 24mm Nikkor lens. It was hand held ISO 400 Neopan film at 1/20sec at f3.5

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