SAVE ME

    20 x 30 cm. digital prints
    City is a social place built from narratives
    and visions. Those standing to gain from the
    political, economic, and culutural visions
    determine the function of buildings to be
    constructed and the form they will take.
    Streets, squares, neighborhoods and
    organizations help traditional stories
    continue. Empty and desserted lots and lower
    income areas become places for reflections on
    new visions, utopias and distopias. The people
    who make these reflections and tell these
    stories not only fanticize, but also play a role
    in the materialization of these dreams. In
    Istanbul large building projects spread like
    fungus throughout the city while Istanbul
    urbanites adjust to a state of continual chaos
    and change. As the city becomes gentrified,
    small businesses gradually disappear because
    they cannot compete with international corporations.
    Daily I watch the traditional 'bakkal' (grocery shop),
    'kurtasiye' (stationery shop), 'nalbur' (hardware store),
    'berber' (hairdresser), 'manav' (green grocer),
    'pastahane' (pastry shop), commercial art gallery,
    and photograph studio disappear.
    To materialize a photography series, I walked through
    several neighborhoods in Istanbul, found small
    shops that have been in business for the past
    15-30 years, and arranged "SAVE ME" stickers in their
    windows or outside their spaces. In an Istanbul
    exhibition, I handed out “SAVE ME” stickers and
    asked the audience to put them on places they
    would like to  save. Some of the participants sent
    email photographs to me. Later I was invited to
    Hamburg to show these photographs and continue
    this project. I learned that in that city also the
    complexity and diversity of neighborhoods, with
    traditional shops, theaters, museums and cafes
    is being replaced by H&M, Starbucks, IKEA and
    other capitalistic shopping areas. I realized that in
    many contemporary cities we need to ask,
    "Who really owns our streets?"
    Istanbul photographs by Mert Sahbaz