Muharrem Yorganci’s Archive

Posted 16 July 2009 in Community service Cultural tradition Family dependent Small-scale possibilities Turkey - Istanbul


Now aged 83, Mr Yorganci bought a camera at the age of 14 and has since habitually photographed and archived all parts of his life including family, friends, weddings, funerals and the customers of their shop.

He ran a small shop with his beloved wife Nermin, for 50 years. “A very beautiful and sweet commercial life passed by. The most important thing was that we did it together.” Their shop was situated in a fairly low-income neighbourhood near Eminonu. His customers were mostly neighbours and friends from the same town on the Black Sea coast. “There was social intimacy in our area. I offered them a chair, we served tea and would talk.”

What follows are extracts from an interview with Mr Yorganci about his life, shop and his photographs.

“We lived above the shop and I remember being disturbed at all hours. A tailor on a deadline might knock at 2am to ask for a replacement for a broken needle. We would serve them, not thinking about profit, but it was our professional duty.”

“When I was a child, my father owned a bakkal, which sold everything for the village. Customers shopped on credit with their debt noted down in our ‘bakkal book’. In 1944, when I had finished school in Istanbul and returned to my village, I wanted to (but didn’t) take photos of the customers and stick them next to their debt. The idea of photographing customers comes from there.”

“In our Istanbul shop, a man had some items in the credit book when he passed away. His son was a child at the time. 15 years later, this young man came to the shop and said ‘I think my father owed you, let’s even things up’. When he began to work, he paid the debt. Because of inflation the debt was nothing at all, but I still let him pay. This gesture, of him remembering to come back and pay his father’s debt, brought tears to our eyes.”

“I replace my camera every few years. Now my daughter says ‘let’s buy you a digital camera’, but I don’t want one. I’ve been taking my films to the same shop since the beginning of the 1970s. I’ve known Rifat, the owner for more than 30 years and there’s a strong bond between us. I sit for an hour or so and drink tea. Then I go again to collect the prints. If I went digital, I would lose that regular contact with my friend.”

Shop photos

“I photographed all the customers I knew, the ones to whom I served tea and chatted with.”


“I knew Ahmet from our home town. In Istanbul, he was a neighbour. He worked as a bearer, carrying fruit and vegetables. He bought from the shop all the time and we offered him credit so he could pay later. He’d buy socks, shirts and underwear. When he returned to our hometown for the summer, he would buy gifts. Scarves for his wife, needles and thread. Eau de cologne.”



“This man used to work as an assistant for a shoemaker. My wife made his wife’s wedding dress. He’d come and buy things all the time, the same things as Ahmet. Gifts for newborns, socks, scarves and underwear, school materials for his children, bags, etc.”


“I would ask children from the neighbourhood to wait by the door so I could take their photograph. I remember this child. She was our neighbour’s daughter. Parents could safely send their children on errands alone. They had confidence in the shops and their owners, and the neighbourhood had very little traffic. She’d buy pens, pencils, notebooks or whatever her mother sent her to buy.”

This photo shows three of the many photos Mr Yorganci has of himself and which were taken by his customers.