Gülsün Karamustafa


Among other interesting issues that I came across during my visit to Thessaloniki, the images of the “Jewish Porters” that I saw at the Museum of Photography highly impressed me. The ghosts of those photos followed me through my surveys in the city at other exhibitions as well as in our visit to the White Tower, always reminding me of the images of other porters from many Mediterranean ports.I live in Istanbul and I have experienced the representational language of photography introducing my city with porter photographs to the world scene to emphasize the poverty of the country until the end of the 1980s, and I know the hidden language of such images well. This interest gave way to search for the porter photographs from the Mediterranean ports, and what I have witnessed was more than I could expect. Also, many of them, being in the form of postcards raised new questions for me.

Why are there so many postcards depicting porters?

What makes people wish to do their correspondence with the images of porters?

Is it an Orientalist approach?

Is it to mark the super mighty men of the Orient?

Or is it to mark the poverty of the Orient?

Why is there an urge to declare the origin of the porters? (Jewish Porters/Kurdish Porters etc.)? Is that a discriminating issue?

Why is there so much focus on the porter photographs?

Why are many of those photos made by studio photographers?

Is it the same porter, posed in different positions, clad in different outfits?

Were those photographed real porters or models?

Are those Porter Postcards offering a make-believe world for the receiver?

The questions may continue forever each time one confronts a new image related to the story.


b. 1946, Ankara, Turkey

Lives and works in Istanbul. As Erden Kosova wrote: “The prominent motives of Gülsün Karamustafa’s work so far have been issues around migration, geographic mobility and their cultural consequences like urbanisation, and hybridisation. A secondary motive, which has been occasionally recurring, has been memory. The first couple of examples of these evolved around Karamustafa’s own childhood, her family, and the socio-political associations of her early formation. Recently, the motif of memory has become the determinant theme of her work, and the use of the concept of memory has been transposed to elaborate an urban archaeology of the city of Istanbul”. Selected solo shows: The Apartment Building, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (2012) • Etiquette, ifa Gallery, Berlin and Stuttgart (2011) • Mobile Stages, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg (2008) • Bosphorus 1954, Kunstmuseum Bonn (2008) • Memory of a Square, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich (2006). Recent group shows: 1st Kiev Biennial (2012) • 3rd Singapore Biennial (2011) • Modern Essays, Modernity Unveiled /Interweaving Histories, SALT, Istanbul (2011) • Live Cinema/In the Round: Contemporary Art from the East Mediterranian, Philadelphia Museum of Art (2010) • Strange and Close, Play Van Abbe, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven (2009) • Who killed the Painting, Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen (2009) • Passion for Art, Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg, Austria (2007).