REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM

A PHOTOGRAPHER'S STUDIO FOR THE MERRY MEN - Ziya Osman SABA

That evening I managed to leave my work earlier. I intended to go over to Beyoglu. I passed from the bridge giving my lungs their right of breath, which were filled with polluted air for hours, and greeting the Golden Horn and the İstanbul Strait.

Steamers of the neighborhoods where I had lived at one time were still in turmoil of setting out. Here, the bell of the 6:00 o'clock steamer to Kadıköy rings. There is the 6:30 o'clock steamer to sail along the Anatolian Coast of the İstanbul Strait… These whole and fractional numbers, though, even the seconds of them were precious for me once, have lost their importance now! The bell may ring as sharp as it pleases; the official may threaten with closing the iron doors as far he pleases; I am no more a passenger of these steamers, I have no one living there. I may walk through Yuksekkaldirim slowly as I please, loitering before the shop-windows of the secondhand bookstores. And when I come to the Tunnel, with a distressing expression on my face as if waiting for the streetcar, I may watch the people getting on the streetcar, and then with the air of a man decided to go on foot, I may walk to Galatasaray, Taksim, dawdling.

There are people coming towards me, there are people coming behind me. Those who walk behind me are finally passing me, we are looking each other with some of the people coming towards me for a while; some people don't see me, and I don't see some of them; some people pass by touching me, and some bump. The men, the women, the tall, the short, the old, the young, the beautiful, the ugly, the poor… There are the women with their husbands, the girls with their fiancés, those alone, those with their lovers, and the little children walking right next to their mothers. There are a life treasure young girls, as Cahit Sitki called them "a day's treasure" in one of his poems, whose legs are hidden in long galoshes. And there are children barefoot. They are bounding among those whose feet are protected, and trying to sell newspapers. But their feet are not affected with cold; I assume they are used to it. Moreover, they don't seem to be less merrier than those wearing shoes. The rich, buying newspapers from them, don't expect to take the changes. And it is pleasing them more.

On both sides of me, there are shops, stores, and saloons providing garments, food, and entertainment, and making these people twice as much merry. I can't refrain from stopping before the storefronts, and been carried away with dreams; what a lovely suite of furniture! How would one rest at this wide armchair after been dined! This lampshade would give a pink color to his wife's face who has devoted herself to knitting. And then the husband puts his newspaper away and watches his wife… This end table is as if made for the radios sold in the opposite shop, it will perfectly fit. And one of those knickknacks sold in the antique shop for the top of the radio… The greatest furniture shop of the city, displays a full suite of bedroom. A double bedstead, with a quilt over it; a nightstand at the bedside, and a night-light over it; a small carpet on the floor, and tulle drapes at the windows… all has been considered, it is a full suite of bedroom. And through the drapes a winter décor is seen. All room is in a golden light, as if impatient of waiting its owners…

However, where to move all this furniture? Which flat of these apartment houses could be mine? I forward…

What about this blue necklace at this shop! It will look good on the most blue-eyed girl that I know. But, she is not my beloved!

In the storefront of a shoe-shop there are woman slippers, which look like as if ran away to the edges, some closed, other low-cut, with all their privacy; slippers, which cause to dream an entire house life…

Ah, those shops selling women garments, lingerie, dresses… I see that even if I had money to buy all those lingerie, dresses, tailleurs, coats, still I had no one to use, wear them; I had no one to say "all these are for you…"

All these shops are as if selling happiness to all these people. Among those fruits in various colors and kinds in that green-grocery, those big ones with yellow rinds, for instance, are not only oranges but a happiness of taste, smell and coolness that completes the happiness of the dinner-table. Those sellers shouting loudly "buy these, buy these" mean to say be merrier. And at that corner, bottles of boza brought far from Vefa. Isn't that a private happiness for a father to serve his family a few hours after dinner by sprinkling some cinnamon on and putting some roasted chickpeas beside?

So many photographer studios in this street; for many times I was lost in thought watching pictures before them. I suppose all these merry people should have came to record their happiness. In these pictures their smiles will last longer than their lives. Isn't that the woman with her husband I saw just now? Isn't that small girl with a pink face and two braids, the young girl passed by me joyfully a second ago? It is evident! No pictures of the dead in these photographer's studios. Anyway the most close-by graveyard is kilometers away. You can wander in this street only merrily. Even being in this street would make one merry. I should feel that I live as well, think of my happiness. Among all these many shops, certainly there should be one selling something to make me merry, at least satisfied. I may get my shoes shined here. I may certainly buy that tie. That new poetry book may really enjoy me for some hours. I may as well go inside one of those photographer's studios where the merry men have their photos taken, and say, I'm a happy man as well, you may take my photo. And the photographer may not object to it, he may not say you don't have anybody, what shall you do with the photo. Even if he asks about, of course, I may have a lover one day. I would say the last nice photo of mine that he is to take, may be kept in a hidden place in her handbag, in pleasant smells.

Furthermore, even if I have no one to love me one day, did you know, a new poetry book of mine has been published recently; it may help me known as a poet, and may be, one day a literary historian may search for my photo dated the publication of my book. Between the pages of a literary history book published in glossy papers, I may smile in my young appearance. Yes, yes, at least I'm young; don't consider my grayish hair and discouraged appearance into consideration, my identity card is here, please look at it, I'm still young. And only the fact that I'm young, would create the smile in my lips that you'll want.

There is an automobile in front of a photographer's studio, and a curious crowd around it. I got closer; the interior of the automobile and the windows are decorated with flowers. So, the bride and groom should be in the studio. I may go into this studio; I would both have my photo taken, and also, as they go out the studio, greet the married couple who enjoy one of their merriest moments in their lives.

I am waiting in a hall; all the walls are covered with photos. All people in the photos smile. There is a young officer smiling to his future with the pride and confidence of his newly acquired rank. Some young boys holding a ball tightly as if the most precious thing in the world; all seem healthy and proud. In another photo, there are some graduates standing around their teachers, they all smile with the happiness of a man completed his work, or came to the end of a long way and resting below a tree; all smile.

And the newly married couples, who seemed to be shivering with happiness and pleasure as they stand next to each other, the newly married couples among flowers. All these young men, all got married, all felt happy; and all came to the photographer, who had taken their photos when they were graduated, to say we got married and now we feel the happiness of marriage, take our new photos.

And then at the most wonderful moment of a long marriage without problems, or at the anniversary of a marriage, the couples with their small children came for their photos to be taken. The woman is a little fatter, and the man's hair grew a little bald at his forehead, they smile looking at the photo of a newly married couple on the opposite wall. Everything, everybody here is smiling. There are no photos of an old, ugly, troubled man. It is as if no unhappy man has ever came here. Or the photographer, as a key for his success, did not take photos of a man who does not sincerely smile before his camera.

As I was thinking over such things, suddenly the door of the studio was opened, the bride, in a white wedding dress whiter than the flowers at her hand, and his husband next to her, passed before me in an air of spring, like a wind of spring, and got in the automobile waiting for them. The photographer wished them Godspeed and waited for some more seconds at the threshold and looked after the automobile, then he came back, smiling to himself in a manner of an artist pleased with his work, took some steps towards me without seeing me. Much later he noticed my presence, and as if waking up from a pleasant dream, asked what I wanted with his looks.

- I want my photo to be taken. I want to have a nice photo of me to be taken, I said. As I was talking, he was looking at me carefully from head to foot, his face, bit by bit, was losing the former pleased state, and getting almost an anxious state:

- Come in the studio please, he said.

I went in front, and he followed me into the studio where the smell of happiness mixed with flowers and lavenders was perceived. I sat on the chair he pointed. He stood at the back of the camera, and his face disappeared after the cloth; I only heard him saying:

- Stay natural!

- Don't oppress yourself!

- Forget that you came here to have your photo taken!

- Think of beautiful, joyful things!

There was no need of reminding this to me; I have come here with joyful thoughts. May be one day my lover shall keep the photo to be taken here in her bag… May be this picture is to…

Suddenly the photographer's voice, this time a little nervous, got louder:

- Please, force yourself to smile!

Well, how displeasing is a forced smile! Anyway, I don't need to smile forcedly. All the eternity looks behind that lens to me, and I may smile to all the eternity, to all the future generations like a great poet, conceitedly, haughtily.

Is it too conceited? Is it a great, even funny assertion? Right! In fact I never had assertions in life!… My photo taken at this moment should have a smaller, humbler aim. May be I would reach the highest level promised by my religion and become a martyr. Then my photo would be published in some magazines among the other martyrs. May be my school, would put my photo in its museum among its other martyrs. May be I would just pass away. Then my photo would help some relatives or friends to remember me. I may even send them my smiles of gratitude and friendship in advance.

Getting into the tumult of life outside, smelling the perfume of the bride in whites penetrated into the room, watching the pigeons kissing each other with their beaks at the eaves of the opposite building, recalling the photos that I watched in the hall, as if I was one of that young graduates, as if I was that young official, thinking that I may reach the stage of martyrdom one day, as if holding my beloved's hand, with the happiness of the married couple having their photograph taken together with their child… but why for I'm struggling now? Why for I try to deceive myself? What happened to my really happy moments? Why didn't I have my photos taken then? Why didn't we go to studios everywhere? Why did I come here alone?

But this is not the time for thinking such things! Anybody on the world should have suffered disasters. Should it cause for a deep pessimism? I should think of happiness not disasters, of ones to be born not those who are dead, the future not the past. Moreover…

Suddenly the photographer threw away the black cloth over him and stood upright. His face was in a sweat; with a hopeless manner he said:

- Sir, excuse me, but I can't take your photograph.

Ziya Osman SABA