This series was taken in Istanbul at the beginning of what is an ongoing movement against the current leadership of Turkey.
Thinking back, what I remember most vividly were sounds of intense conversation – a lot of helping each other – dancing, singing, and laughing – people checking on one another – a real strong sense of community. I remember the chanting – “Tayyip Istifa!!” over and over again, crying for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign.
The people had set up a community garden, a place to get food, and a medical area. Donations were coming in to keep the camp alive, even celebrities were visiting to show their support. It wasn’t just young radicals; there was a real mix of ages. It was a strange combination really: vegetarians, secularists, communists, artists, feminists, environmentalists, and everything in between – a combination that interestingly seemed to mesh well. Those first days in Gezi Park and Taksim square were magical, definitely the largest street party I have been to – where public space was truly public. I wandered around the park and square, talking to people and taking portraits of them as they were; reading a book, doing yoga, smoking a cigarette etc. It was peaceful. However, there was a sense, given what they were up against that it wouldn’t last for long.
Those last days I was in Istanbul were scary – as the authorities tore up the camp and dispersed the citizens with force. I breathed in the tear gas as I took final portraits of people out in the streets at night.
It will never be the same – and the revolution those people were imagining didn’t materialize. Tayyip Erdogan didn’t step down. The police tore down their tents, garden, medical center, and food distribution operation… and beat them up.
Still in Istanbul, protesters chant “Taksim is everywhere,” referring to where it all started in June after the police cracked down on a small group of people protesting government plans to demolish an adjacent city park called Gezi.
Recently a 22 year-old was killed, bringing the number of people who have died since the protests started to six.
I will always remember these people who really believed in the cause – some of them who I know are still out there fighting, for that park, the square and the way they want Turkey to be.
Colin Boyd Shafer’s is a Canadian photographer focused mainly on portraiture and the street, with a keen interest in documentary projects. His award-winning photographs have been in a wide range of international publications from Salon Magazine to BBC News. Currently, he is embarking on his first crowdfunded portrait project called “Cosmopolis Toronto” where he plans on taking a portrait of someone born in every single country of the world who now calls the diverse city of Toronto home.