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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    x0x ISTANBUL THROUGH THE EYES OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * Ozgur D. Durgun For fifteen years I grew up watching the beauty of the Bosphorus from the hills
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 19, 2002

      * Ozgur D. Durgun

      ' For fifteen years I grew up watching the beauty of the Bosphorus
      from the hills above Bebek. Istanbul and the Bosphorus have certainly
      played a very great part in my love of nature, to which I owe my
      success in my career.'

      These are the words of Dr Gilbert H. Grosvenor, editor of the world
      famous National Geographic Magazine for 55 years, who was born and
      brought up in Istanbul. They are taken from an interview with
      journalist Haluk Durukal in 1950. At that time Grosvenor could not
      have foreseen that exactly fifteen years later the National Geographic
      Magazine's photographs of Istanbul would
      be shown at a major exhibition at the Ottoman Imperial Mint. Grosvenor
      explained that the magazine had nearly two million photographs in its
      archives, and declared that 'the largest collection of all is that
      depicting the country where I was born and Istanbul, the city where I
      grew up.'

      The boys had been born in Istanbul, then capital of the Ottoman
      Empire, and spent their childhood and early youth there. Their unusual
      background attracted the attention of inventor Alexander Graham Bell,
      one of the founders of the society who was to become its president in

      Years later Gilbert Grosvenor said in the same interview, 'I can never
      forget the Galata Bridge, which we often crossed with my father.

      Albanians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Arabs, Easterners and Westerners were
      to be seen, as if people of all the nations of the word had come
      together in this legendary city, bringing their own customs and
      cultures. I used to wonder if there could be another city on earth
      like it.' Gilbert Grosvenor became first assistant editor of the
      National Geographic Magazine, and in 1899 succeeded Bell
      as the National Geographic Society's president.

      In 1900 he was appointed editor of the magazine, which entered a new
      era under his direction. In 1901 the number of subscribers rose from
      1000 to 74,000, and by 1915 there were 424,000 subscribers.When
      Grosvenor retired in 1955, 2.2 million copies of the National
      Geographic Magazine were being printed each month. Grosvenor was
      succeeded by his son Melville Bell Grosvenor, who retired in 1967, to
      be succeeded by his own son Gilbert Melville Grosvenor, who is
      currently chairman of the board of trustees of the National Geographic

      The exhibition of photographs of Istanbul from the archives of the
      National Geographic Magazine, which has been documenting the world and
      its transformations for over a century now, is being organised by Is
      Bankasi, a bank which has played a major role in Turkey's own
      transformation from a largely agricultural to an industrial society.

      Writer Murat Belge has described the exhibition in the following
      words: '"To see with on'so own eyes" is an expression which is used in
      many languages. Photography shows us what other eyes have seen.

      This exhibition brings photographs produced for other eyes in which we
      are the main protagonists. Now we are the viewers of ourselves as we
      were once seen by others. "That is us!" we exclaim.'
      The photographs of the people, buildings, streets and monuments of
      Istanbul in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the first fifty
      years of the Turkish Republic create a vivid picture of this eventful
      period. They reflect the faces of a people tired after years of war
      and the varied costumes of immigrants to the city from Anatolia, the
      Balkans and Caucasia.

      We are reminded of the change-over to a new Turkish alphabet, that
      memorable winter when the Bosphorus iced over, and many other events
      in our recent past that the older generation remembers but the younger
      has only heard about. As Murat Belge says, it is like looking at
      ourselves in funfair mirrors, and suddenly realising that it is indeed

      * Ozgur D. Durgun is a journalist
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