Creative Layover: Istanbul

“İstanbul’a hoş geldiniz!” (“Welcome to Istanbul!”)…our fourth stop in our Creative Layover series. This time we are mixing east with west, exploring a city that bridges and embraces two continents. As one of the cultural hubs of Turkey, this destination has established itself as a regional artistic center.

Istanbul, Turkey

As the only city in the world to sit on two continents, Istanbul is at the crossroads of European and Asian culture. Domes of mosques and medieval architecture create the backdrop for this port city. Looking beyond the touristy bazaars, Istanbul is quickly becoming a creative capital filled with artistic stories. Come along with us and meet three Turkish artists who have showcased their love for their culture through their art.

Photographer – Elif Gulen

Elif Gulen has lived most of her life in Istanbul. After graduating with a BA in Graphic Design, she traveled the world for a year taking photos in numerous countries, including Turkey, Cuba, Yemen and China. After completing her master’s degree, she photographed and filmed the urban transformation of Galata, Turkey. On her love for Istanbul, she says, “I love Istanbul because it is magical and crazy. It is my stage, and I am the wanderer who searches for the odd moment.”

Smoking – Eminönü. “The morning light hit this spot, which is in front of the New Mosque. Normally, this place is very crowded, but in the early morning I was able to visit it with less people.”

Shop Window. “Headless mannequins with pearls drew me to this shop window, but it was when I saw the street reflection that made me press the shutter.”

Wall Tree. “I really like this place in Istanbul because the tree is growing out of the wall. It reminds me that life is always positive. The funny thing is a lot of people are oblivious to it.”

Elif’s Tips, Tricks, and Parting Words of Advice: On her biggest challenge, “The challenge for me is to capture a moment with good composition. The composition must flow with the subject and help transfer a strong feeling. There must be a sense or feeling that transfers a little of the photographer’s vision to the viewer.”

On using Lightroom, “I use the book-making section a lot in Lightroom to see my images flow in a book format. Since my ultimate point in photography is to own a book, it is great to play with this feature. I sometimes get dummy books made out of my final work to see the images in print version.”

Photo Manipulator – Hüseyin Şahin

Hüseyin Şahin was born and raised in Istanbul. After discovering a talent for drawing and art, he studied Graphic Design and Photography in college. He decided to quit his job in 2015 to pursue his Photoshop passion of creating dreamworlds full-time. On his increasing popularity, he says, “The surrealist photos that I’ve taken have been shown to thousands of people through social media. In a very short time frame, I created a global presence.”

Heaven Valley. “For this image, I just imagined something that would look like Heaven where everything looks and feels peaceful.”

Breath. “My aim for this image was to provide a visual for people who are getting over difficult times.”

Northern Lights 2020. “There is a mixture of nature, technology and futuristic elements in this image. I wanted to create an image of a trip we could take in the future.”

Hüseyin’s Tips, Tricks, and Parting Words of Advice: On his advice for creating, “While you’re creating your own image, set your mind free and don’t worry about being liked or getting likes, instead try to draw the dream you have in your mind. While you’re doing this, don’t forget to engross yourself in nature, music and reading to help you to expand your vision.”

On the importance of composition, “The most important thing is that the composition has to look realistic, which can be achieved by using the right color, light and angle. You can always create incredible pictures if you mix the right photographs and materials.”

Illustrator – Merve Atılgan

Merve Atılgan is an Istanbul-based freelance illustrator and animator, who mainly focuses on children’s book illustration, concept art and character design. On what inspires her, she says, “My work is inspired by different cultures, folk art, emotions and visual experiences. For me, it’s all about the process. I like to be in the moment while I’m creating and drawing.”

Arkaoda Nisan. “This is a spring-themed poster for a famous bar in Istanbul. I was inspired by nature and wanted to include those type of elements.”

Heartbreak. “This is one of my most personal pieces of work that reflected my feelings during a dramatic and real moment in my life.”

Museum of Masked Adults. “I wanted to illustrate a story from a child’s perspective. Children make you look beyond your own nose and their curiosity opens doors to a different kind of imagination. Unfortunately, most adults can’t see a child’s beautiful imaginative world, so I depicted their blindness with the mask.”

Merve’s Tips, Tricks, and Parting Words of Advice: On her process, “My whole process generally starts and finishes with Photoshop, but sometimes I like to draw experimental pieces and mix traditional art with digital. The ability to change an illustration easily in Photoshop gives me more flexibility to try different textures and various colors during the creation process.”

On her advice, “My advice is to get as much pleasure as possible while creating and always experiment with different ideas and mediums. Being bold and taking risks in life is important to express oneself fluently in their own visual story.”

For more from these artists, check out their social channels below:

Elif Gulen | Website | Instagram

Hüseyin Şahin | Website | Instagram | Behance

Merve Atılgan | Instagram | Behance

Check out our last two stops in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, and stay tuned for our next installment of Creative Layover, where we will spotlight three artists in a new city.