Monday, July 27, 2009

The whole truth

I took some photos recently and was criticised for it. An example: a man sits on a tree stump in front of a cobbled wall. Beside him on another tree stump is a glass of tea. He has grey hair, a weathered face and is dressed in well-used work clothes. The knees of his trousers are dirty and his rolled-up sleeves are grubby. His expression is a little bemused, there may even be a hint of mischief in his eye. The criticism: 'That doesn't reflect his social status.'

You see he looked like a villager. He didn't look like an apartment owner and landlord, or a shopkeeper, or father to teachers and other educated children.

Being seen as a villager in Turkey is the highest of praise according to Ataturk but more likely it's a dismissal in modern Turkey. It could mean someone hardworking or lazy, crafty or slow, noble or not. It can refer to a mindset that is superstitious, introverted and traditionalist. As Turkey has urbanised so quickly this divide is seen more in the cities than in the villages themselves. Virtual ghettos form, where people from neighbouring villages live close to each other and bring the village with them to the city. Any patch of land is used to grow vegetables, clothes are shaken over balconies without regard for the fancy cafe below and the village network takes over shops and businesses. This may clash with the established order in the city, an order created by people only a generation or so from the village themselves.

To judge a person based on a single photo may indicate there are self-esteem issues linked to this divide that Turkey will have to face.

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