Bill and I went to Istanbul in December of 2012 with Andy Hancock and Jana Erb to meet Gen Umei and Toshiaki Ayiogi from K&L - an advertising agency in Tokyo whose largest client, Nikon, had asked Bill to make images for advertising campaign for the soon-to-be-released Nikon D4.
My love for the place was immediate. The colors, the food, the people, the antiquity of the place. Istanbul has been in the center of history for millennia. I was enchanted.
It was the perfect mix of east and west. It felt foreign, but familiar.
I had the sense I'd been there before, perhaps in a dream. Maybe just in a history book.
Every historical period is represented somehow in the city’s architecture. There’s the Column of Constantine from Roman rule. The Hagia Sofia from the Byzantine period. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (popularly known as the Blue Mosque) is newer, built in 1616 during Ottoman empire. Everywhere you look there is history, made and in the making.
Our time in Istanbul was full. We had a lot to cover in two short weeks. We had to make images for a brochure and a film for the web site, so there was no time to waste.
When you live life on the road, it’s hard sometimes to stay grounded. I find myself sticking to silly routines like what side of the bed I sleep on, what I eat for breakfast, what music I listen to during different times of the day - classical piano in the morning, Americana/folk at night - all in an effort to my head on my shoulders. But sometimes, when a job is particularly demanding, those routines get abandoned and I have to choose sleep over stability.
In Istanbul we were up before the sun rose every morning and in bed well after midnight. Planning, editing and negotiating take time, and the only time we had to do that was after the sun went down. Sleep quickly became my top priority. Yet, even without my routines, I maintained a level of sanity.
After a few days I knew why. In Islam, there are six calls to prayer - the first is two hours before dawn, then one at dawn, then midday, afternoon, sunset and one more at the last light of day. The call to prayer became my watch, a constant I could count on during a hectic schedule.
I remember one morning in particular when we were running a motion time-lapse at dawn, showing the incredible traffic around the city and through the Bosphorous. It was a cold morning and dense fog hung over the water. As the sun began to rise the fog first turned pink and then a deep orange. I could hear Bill and Jana laughing behind me as they talked to Gen. Then, as I sat by myself grasping the few moments of solitude I could find, the dawn call to prayer rang out. I’m not sure what mosque we were near, but it was loud and deep and hauntingly beautiful.
That call was my rock. A reminder to be still and give thanks - even if only for a moment - and I think that’s a reminder we could all use from time to time.