After the Snow
Istanbul, Turkey's only major European city, has been through a lot in recent years. From airport bombings to the nightclub shooting, an attempted military coup involving tanks and fighter jets, and the crackdown on dissent that continues in its wake. The city has also played its part in the refugee "crisis", and more than half a million Syrians now call Istanbul "home" – at least for now. But in January 2017, as more than a foot of snow began to fall, everything came to a stop.
Soon, the domes of the city's great mosques and the streets that run beneath them were coated in a blanket so white the eyes had to squint in order to take it all in. The ferries that cross the Bosphorus, plying their way from Europe to Asia and back each day, sat still on ice-cold waters; hundreds of inbound flights were cancelled, vanishing the usual clamour of tourists – and their money – that litter the city’s winding streets and covered bazaars; and in place of Istanbullus climbing up the steep cobbled paths that so characterise Istanbul’s topography were children whizzing down them on baking trays used as improvised toboggans. One might add the snow to the list of traumas experienced by this vast city and its people. But it was also seemingly cathartic. As a friend remarked, ‘Turks have been through a lot lately – they could use some down time.’ Something, even if only through the hard stop it put on the city, that slowed the seemingly relentless pace of bad news.
I arrived in Istanbul on one of the first planes out of London after flights resumed, a planned stop-over on my way to India, just as the snow was melting; turning from a brilliant and pure white to a decidedly speckled grey. So in place of the catharsis I might have found had I seen the snow as it fell, these photographs show fragments of the city as it was getting back to business – at first deserted, and then slowly, as the streets became busy once more, re-emerging from the suspension of reality that the snow had so fleetingly permitted.