The photobook “Istanbul” by Miron Zownir contains pictures taken in Istanbul in 2019 and 2021. The Berlin photographer has been documenting the zeitgeist of world-famous cities, including New York, Moscow, and his adopted city of Berlin, for 40 years. On the streets of Istanbul, he captures portraits of passers-by, thousands of whom populate the city’s hustle and bustle. The black and white photographs reflect Zownir’s fascination with the desolate and the bizarre. Fueled by curiosity, he adapts to his surroundings, capturing fleeting moments on Tri-X film – the same analogue film he has used since the 1970s. Through exposure and cropping, he intuitively draws attention to details that propel visual events to a deeper, more narrative level.
Zownir focuses on people who stand out for their diverse characteristics and actions. Istanbul offers space for various cultural contrasts that Zownir highlights by juxtaposing tradition and modernity: the Istanbul skyline features a mosque in close proximity to a taller, more modern skyscraper. Zownir’s work focuses on everyday life in Istanbul without judgment. His works are authentic and simultaneously have a profound impact on the viewer. The viewer’s gaze is guided to social issues that take on relevance in his work. His attitude towards people is one of respect, and he photographs them without ostentation. However, empathy and contrast are not the only driving forces behind his motifs; Miron Zownir also perceives a clear social cohesion in Istanbul. He captures moments of people communicating, approaching, and helping each other.
Beyond Taksim Square and the Hagia Sophia, Miron Zownir experiences Istanbul as a tolerant, cosmopolitan, and lively city where great contrasts exist between people, values, and dreams. Unbiased and unfiltered, the Istanbul exhibition reveals the multi-layered complexity of the metropolis and the people who inhabit it.
In his photo series “ISTANBUL NOIR,” shot before and during the Corona pandemic, Miron Zownir illustrates the diverse realities of life among people in Turkey’s largest city. He depicts a social reality that includes an ever-increasing poverty and social taboos. The photo book “ISTANBUL” by Miron Zownir portrays life on the streets of the mega-metropolis as a raw, direct experience of human existence in politically and economically turbulent times.
“Zownir shows us the dark side of everyday life in Istanbul, focusing on social issues and grievances, but also depicting strong social cohesion with a lot of empathy.” -( PhotoKlassik, The magazine for current analog photography, 01/23)
Miron Zownir’s new photography book portrays life on the streets of the mega-metropolis as an unpolished, direct experience of human existence in politically and economically troubled times.
About the Author
Miron Zownir, hailed as the “poet of radical photography,” has consistently and uniformly contributed to the field for over four decades. Born in Karlsruhe in 1953, to a German mother and a Ukrainian father, he began photographing in West Berlin and London in the late 1970s before relocating to New York in 1980. Zownir has been a relentless chronicler of subcultures, earning recognition for his uncompromising portrayals of social milieus.
His extensive body of work has been exhibited globally since the 1980s, showcasing his distinct approach to capturing the zeitgeist. Zownir’s early photographs from New York were published in a special edition of FOTOGRAFIE magazine in 1983, and in 1988, the APEX Edition MIRON ZOWNIR – Poet of Radical Photography was released, featuring his work from Berlin, London, and New York.
Zownir’s journey led him from New York to Los Angeles and Pittsburgh until 1995. In addition to photography, he delved into filmmaking in the USA, collaborating with notable figures such as Alexandre Rockwell. Returning to Germany, his anti-racism short film “ON THE OPEN ROAD” gained recognition.
His impactful work extended to Moscow in 1995, documenting the humanitarian crisis post-Soviet Union collapse, later featured in the monograph “RADICAL EYE” (1998) and “DOWN & OUT IN MOSCOW” (2014). Zownir’s photographic explorations expanded to Spain in 2000, capturing flagellants and pilgrims in Lourdes.
Returning to Berlin in 1996, Zownir worked on the documentary “BRUNO S. – THE STRANGER IS DEATH” and ventured into literature with his pulp novel “KEIN SCHLICHTER ABGANG” (2003). Over the years, his novels and short stories have enriched the literary landscape.
His diverse projects include photographing Spanish flagellants, exploring the Trump era in California (2016), and addressing social issues in novels like “POMMERENKE” (2017). International exhibitions, retrospectives, and recognitions followed, with his extensive retrospective at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg in 2016.
In 2020/21, Miron Zownir’s early Berlin photographs were featured in exhibitions in Hamburg and Berlin. In 2021, a comprehensive retrospective in Palermo, Italy, showcased works from 1977 to 2019. The exhibition catalog “APOTHEOSIS AND DERISION” was published alongside it.
Continuing his prolific career, Zownir’s works are displayed in museums, and he remains a prominent figure in contemporary photography, represented at international photo fairs and by the Cologne gallery Bene Taschen.