Daily Picture Show

Via Instagram, Insight Into Turkey's Protests

Instagrammer @serkanbac posted this photo in Izmir, Turkey, on May 30. i i

Instagrammer @serkanbac posted this photo in Izmir, Turkey, on May 30. Serkan Bac hide caption

itoggle caption Serkan Bac
Instagrammer @serkanbac posted this photo in Izmir, Turkey, on May 30.

Instagrammer @serkanbac posted this photo in Izmir, Turkey, on May 30.

Serkan Bac

Serkan Bac is not a professional photographer, but he enjoys posting photos to Instagram, many showing places he's visited in his hometown of Istanbul and throughout Turkey.

Two weeks ago, for example, during a work trip to Izmir, Bac posted a photo of people watching the sunset.

"A lover couple, friends sitting by the sea and sundown, enjoying their lives," he says in an email interview with NPR, "just like a happy ending of a Hollywood movie."

In that photo, Bac used the hashtags #beautiful and #lovers to describe the scene.

Bac posted this photo to Instagram on June 4. Bac says he took the photo two days earlier in Izmir, Turkey. i i

Bac posted this photo to Instagram on June 4. Bac says he took the photo two days earlier in Izmir, Turkey. Serkan Bac hide caption

itoggle caption Serkan Bac
Bac posted this photo to Instagram on June 4. Bac says he took the photo two days earlier in Izmir, Turkey.

Bac posted this photo to Instagram on June 4. Bac says he took the photo two days earlier in Izmir, Turkey.

Serkan Bac

Then just a few days later, his photos took on new hashtags: #resistanbul and #occupygezi.

Bac describes the changes in scenery — from sunsets to protests — as "something unimaginable — like UFOs came," he says, "and [my] whole life is changed."

His recent Instagram images are similar to the feeds of many in Turkey.

In recent weeks, more than 200,000 photos have been tagged with #occupygezi on Instagram.

The protests, which started as an effort to save Istanbul's Gezi Park from redevelopment, have grown into an ongoing anti-government demonstration directed at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's leadership. They quickly spread to other cities as well, like Izmir and Ankara, Turkey's capital.

For the past two weeks, social photography has shown how popular tourist spots in Istanbul, like Istiklal Street and Taksim Square, have been transformed into urban battlegrounds.

  • An man on Istiklal Street after violent clashes with police. (Posted to Instagram June 1)
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    An man on Istiklal Street after violent clashes with police. (Posted to Instagram June 1)
    Engin Iriz
  • In Taksim Square, youth sit atop a destroyed van holding up bottles of ayran, a yogurt drink. Their protest was directed at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently called ayran Turkey's national drink, igniting a debate over the place of alcohol in Turkish society. (Posted June 2)
    Hide caption
    In Taksim Square, youth sit atop a destroyed van holding up bottles of ayran, a yogurt drink. Their protest was directed at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently called ayran Turkey's national drink, igniting a debate over the place of alcohol in Turkish society. (Posted June 2)
    Engin Iriz
  • Drummers lead a crowd of demonstrators along Istiklal Street. (Posted June 4)
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    Drummers lead a crowd of demonstrators along Istiklal Street. (Posted June 4)
    Engin Iriz
  • In Gezi Park, a man takes part in "You're Not a Fish After All," a Turkish play dedicated to an Armenian journalist who was murdered in 2007. It's one of many performances including yoga and piano recitals that have occurred since the park occupation began. (Posted June 4)
    Hide caption
    In Gezi Park, a man takes part in "You're Not a Fish After All," a Turkish play dedicated to an Armenian journalist who was murdered in 2007. It's one of many performances including yoga and piano recitals that have occurred since the park occupation began. (Posted June 4)
    Engin Iriz
  • Protesters and police clash in Gezi Park. (Posted June 4)
    Hide caption
    Protesters and police clash in Gezi Park. (Posted June 4)
    Engin Iriz
  • A woman watches a crowd gathered in a neighborhood near Taksim. (Posted June 5.)
    Hide caption
    A woman watches a crowd gathered in a neighborhood near Taksim. (Posted June 5.)
    Engin Iriz
  • Protesters at night in Istanbul. (Posted June 5)
    Hide caption
    Protesters at night in Istanbul. (Posted June 5)
    Engin Iriz
  • Children with Guy Fawkes masks on Istiklal Street. (Posted June 9)
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    Children with Guy Fawkes masks on Istiklal Street. (Posted June 9)
    Engin Iriz
  • People sit on the roof of the Ataturk Cultural Center, a building also slated for destruction near Gezi Park. (Posted June 7)
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    People sit on the roof of the Ataturk Cultural Center, a building also slated for destruction near Gezi Park. (Posted June 7)
    Engin Iriz
  • A street scene in Istanbul. (Posted June 8)
    Hide caption
    A street scene in Istanbul. (Posted June 8)
    Engin Iriz
  • A crowd watches as a piano player performs in Taksim Square. (Posted June 12)
    Hide caption
    A crowd watches as a piano player performs in Taksim Square. (Posted June 12)
    Engin Iriz

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Earlier this month, Erdogan criticized the role social media played in publicizing the protests, calling social media the "worst menace to society." Erdogan blamed Twitter for distorting the events taking place around Taksim Square, where violent clashes between police and protesters erupted.

This week, police again used tear gas against demonstrators, attempting to disperse them. And on Wednesday, Erdogan gave demonstrators a 24-hour warning, telling them to end protests. (Our colleagues over at The Two-Way blog are monitoring the latest events.)

It's hard to gauge from the outside what might be distorted on Instagram. But it offers a new perspective on the protests — and the lives of the photographers.

Take, for example, freelance photographer Engin Iriz's Instagram feed.

A photo Iriz posted on June 2. i i

A photo Iriz posted on June 2. Engin Iriz hide caption

itoggle caption Engin Iriz
A photo Iriz posted on June 2.

A photo Iriz posted on June 2.

Engin Iriz

A few days before he started taking photos of the Gezi Park demonstrations, his photos were perfectly quotidian: A dog, a selfie in a mirror and a sunrise.

Then on May 31, he posted from Gezi Park. Since then, Iriz says he's been out shooting about six hours every day, focusing on the demonstrations around Taksim Square. He tells NPR that none of his photos of the protests have been manipulated.

Iriz describes his experience over the past two weeks via email:

"The police intervention on the first day was very, very violent. I went directly in the heart of the intervention without any protection and started to take pictures with my iPhone and Fuji x100 camera. I saw firsthand how the police used disproportionate force and tear gas on the protesters. They directly aimed the capsules on the people. And as the police used force, the people grew stronger like [the] 'Hulk.' But they finally understood that the use of force was in vain."

Iriz calls these past two weeks "the most important social event" he's ever seen.

For those of us not in Taksim, Instagram may make us feel a little closer to what's happening there — what it might look like if we were walking outside or watching from our own windows.

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