Yener Torun photographs Minimalist architecture in Turkey
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Yener Torun photographs vibrant modern architecture in Turkey

Photo essay: Istanbul-based Yener Torun has created a photography series that offers an alternative view of historic Turkish cities, featuring modern buildings with graphic shapes and bright colours (+ slideshow).

The photographer has spent the last year using Instagram to document architecture that features bold shapes, vibrant hues and patterned facades, both in Istanbul and other cities. He hopes to reveal that there is more to Turkey than opulent mosques and old streets.

"I want to show what people usually do not see. Maybe because of that, even long-term residents cannot believe that most of my pictures have been taken in Istanbul. They offer an escape from the Orientalist perception of the city," explains Torun.


In the last 10 years there has been an unbelievable growth in construction business in Istanbul. And unfortunately most of these mega projects brought more problems than they solved. Instead of showing bad architecture I choose to show some less-ostentatious, modest, colourful, small-scale treats. What I show is a silver lining to the negativity of this uncontrolled grey growth.

Yener Torun photographs vibrant Minimalist architecture in Turkey

I'm a 32 year-old architect and have been living in Istanbul for 14 years. Inspired by other Instagrammers, mostly minimal photographers, I started photographing buildings almost a year ago with Instagram.

Most of my early pics are colourful architectural details. Later, I started to combine street photography with Minimalism and tried to build my own style. I started looking for strong shapes, and colourful or patterned facades. It is funny, because my photos of Istanbul do not really look like Istanbul. And that is what I exactly wanted to do – to show a different side of the city, a side that was never focused on.

Most of the Istanbul images people see are of the grand mosques, old streets or other places around the Bosphorus, and I really like those too. But those are not what I want to show. I want to show what people usually do not see. Maybe because of that, even long-term residents cannot believe that most of my pictures have been taken in Istanbul. They offer an escape from the Orientalist perception of the city.

Yener Torun photographs vibrant Minimalist architecture in Turkey

Istanbul is exotic and modern at the same time, and that makes its atmosphere unique. It is a city of contrasts by all means. It's fascinating to come across simple, modest, colourful and modern lines amongst all these historic, sumptuous, ornate structures.

But of course it's very rare to find these buildings in historical areas. I choose shooting locations from the more modern parts of the city. I occasionally look for industrial buildings, schools, malls, social housing towers and hotels. These types of buildings offer the geometry and colours I need.

Yener Torun photographs vibrant Minimalist architecture in Turkey

Even though my photographs are of many different colourful structures, Istanbul is not full of them. Actually finding these buildings is the hardest part. It's a vast city and the majority of it is grey. But I enjoy looking for them. I dig every corner of the city – it's a kind of treasure hunt for me. When I find the right place I really feel the adrenaline running through my veins.

Bold use of colour in architecture really fascinates me. These bright colours have a really positive impact on me and I believe they have a similar effect on the people who see my pictures. It is another challenge to decide what to do with the place I find. I usually visit these shooting locations more than once to get what I want, or to see what more I can get. I sometimes take my friends with me as models or I visit the same places at different times in the same day to see how the shadows change.

I approach these colourful or patterned walls as if they were canvases. Because of this, I never think of my work as architectural photography. I use architecture as a tool for telling a story; to show an emotion, a feeling.

Yener Torun photographs vibrant Minimalist architecture in Turkey

They are not just pictures of buildings. The architectural elements, colours, shapes, shadows, the human element, and some humour all connect to create a story – and usually a funny story. It is a story that takes place in a different world. So I think the things I show in my pictures are abstracted from reality. I feel like I discover a new world whenever I find a new shooting location.

I also sometimes visit other cities – like Ankara, Bursa, Izmir and Kocaeli – to find their hidden gems, and sometimes these cities surprise me even more than Istanbul.