James Hughes Undeclared

Ballymena photographer captures the interiors and homeless of Instanbul with new exhibition at Braid Arts Centre

Istanbul is a city that is lost beyond recall and without doubt the largest city in Europe.

It has expanded from less than one million people just over 50 years ago to over 18 million recently. Many of the new inhabitants are 'undeclared'.

Yet, it still permits a final recollection and retelling of its stories. It was my pleasure to witness the ruins of the now undeclared, such as Leon Trotsky, Jean Botter, André Chénier and many other once famous inhabitants of such a great city, as the majority of the interiors and people captured in this exhibition – Undeclared – People & Interiors of Instanbul – have eroded since I began the project five years ago.

With its integration of a gentrification process and its more recent political unrest, the once beautiful city is quickly becoming a lost empire of dirt.

This was also a reasoning for recording images and stories, by writing them into a visual topography in the hope that they could help define an ‘undeclared’ Istanbul vernacular, whose stories are now lost amongst the present gentrification of this unique metropolis where east and west co-exist.

The people I have captured have also slipped between the official and the unofficial net of regulation and control to find their own way of survival. They don't officially exist and are therefore a rising underclass among the population of Istanbul, though they are far from invisible.

As a native of Ballymena and as foreigner – or Yabanci, as called in Istanbul – I use a local sensibility through my way of seeing, which can be observed through a resonance of immediacy and presence to capture the textures of each place or person in the visible traces that could be seen or felt.

Undeclared – Interiors & People of Istanbul runs in the Braid Arts Centre, Ballymena until May 31.