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I have a wonderful wife. As the Summer holidays were drawing to an end and we were trying to keep our sanity until our boys would finally go back to play school and creche, I left Toulouse – my home city in France – and made a dash to Istanbul for a week. On my own.
Istanbul has become like home to me. No wonder as this is where I spent most of my life after my studies in Toulouse. Somehow, this space-time bubble now feels like it was halfway between real life and a never ending Erasmus year stretched over a decade. It could be argued that my post-teenage days lasted until my late thirties.
Thanks to an understanding wife and a cheap flight via Berlin, I was thus on my way to attend and shoot one of the first big dates of The Young Shaven, who were opening for the Californian garage rock band Oh Sees! at Zorlu PSM. This was how I would honour my friendship with Archie McKay, founder, singer and frontman of the post-punk band he started 4 years ago on an Istanbul rooftop terrace. These ten years in Turkey were a significant part of my life. Time enough to get married twice, move house six times and make tons of friends – Turks and otherwise. Last September, as I was there making the rounds and catching up, it appeared that pretty much everybody was down in the mouth regarding the downspiralling political climate which has seen people pack up and leave by the hundred thousands since the failed Gezi uprising in 2013, and even more so since the coup d’Etat attempt in 2016. In my surrounding, many an expat has already set sail and the others have a plan B ready at hand for when the situation demands it.
The joy of being reunited with dear friends such as Archie McKay — just to name one — did however somehow make up up for this sombre mood of defeat and resignation. In 2007, I started hanging out in the less salubrious watering holes of Istanbul city centre which, as they should, were haunted by a cosmopolitan motley crew of beer drinkers and musicians playing more or less regular gigs in small local venues. In 2011, I became friends with Archie McKay, at-the-time founder and singer of the Iggy Pop cover band Raw Power. Three years later, he was attending my wedding as my best man and launching his new band The Young Shaven on the unpretentious rooftop bar where my wedding cocktail was taking place. The post-punk band The Young Shaven is the kind of black pearl you may discover one day in an Istanbul dive or read about in an obscure photogapher’s blog, only to find out a few years later that they’ve released a hit album and are embarking on a world tour. Sure, I’m no music critic, but mark my words…
Be it on the stage or in normal life, Archie has a lot to express. Sometimes, our conversations would take the turn of intimate rock star interviews for Rolling Stone magazine, I’d banter him gently about it, we’d have a laugh. He has what it takes to make it there and he’s doing what he has to do. The Young Shaven’s talent is real and this gem of a band is going to make it on the international stage sooner rather than later. For the sake of posterity, I actually told him we should really record some of our interview-like conversations. Well let’s just say it is still to happen.
I too would have a couple of things to express about Istanbul, but I’m all over the place and if I’m not careful I’ll just end up blurting it all out in one go and start narrating the grand epic of a failed revolution, or giving details about how, at a street junction, the snapping thuds of plastic bullets scattering on the wall behind me à la Pulp Fiction had me dash away from the tear gas cloud and its malevolent pack of robocops, only to realize I had failed to document the action, and anyway my photography was appalling at the time and after a few similar event, where I was left panting with a pounding hear and jelly legs, I regretfully decided it was not my country, not my revolution and a year later I was leaving the country with my pregnant wife. I’m now back in France, trying to build my life as a responsible spouse and father. But Istanbul still lurks in the back of my mind, like the enthralling dream of a timeless traveller sitting on a “vapur” boat, looking into himself, lulled by the Bosphorus. It sometimes fades away, washed on the shores of past memories… never for long though. A ritual journey, a conversation with a dear friend, a post-punk concert or countless pictures which have become the backbone of my photography are always there to bring back in sharp focus this archetypal city of high rises and slums, of shadows and highlights, and serendipitous encounters.
The extra mile…
- Head picture: Archie having a laugh with the audience during The Young Shaven concert on 28 August 2018 in Istanbul. © Grégory Dziedzic.
- So I take it you’re now wondering about The Young Shaven, right? You can check them out on www.theyoungshaven.com, Facebook, Youtube ou Bandcamp.