One of the most interesting places I visited while I was in Turkey this year was certainly Panagia Isodion Church in the Galatasaray district of Istanbul. Tucked behind a taller building on the street and at the end of a dead-end road, it is by any standard a small church, but especially after cleaning and restoration, it is jewel-like. Its well-maintained exterior is deceptively simple. Upon entering the church a glowing quality permeates the air. It mainly stems from the presence of several large-scale icons covered with chased silver, and they, in turn, are surrounded by the liberal amount of gold foiled decorations. Built around 1804, it is a relatively new building and several sources I found on the Internet and obtained from my friend Erdinc Gokce indicate that it may not be too significant from an art history perspective. Despite its small size, it enjoys being a Patriarchate Church and thus Cathedral status.
A Photographer’s View
I am not an art historian, so the church duly impressed me as a photographer. I found it to be mesmerizing, which I suppose is one of the qualities of any church or religious building. Its small dimensions make it more accessible as a photographic subject. I spent altogether about 4 hours photographing the interior of the building. The photographs you will see in this preview will eventually be published in printed format, a bound portfolio with supporting writing and more photographs showing before and after the restoration of different parts of the church. I am also in the process of having prints made in preparation for a possible exhibit if I find a suitable venue.
Some photographs in the gallery will show distortion mainly caused by the fisheye lens I used. I chose to leave some with most of the distortion intact because that was the photograph I wanted. I corrected the severe distortion on a few which resulted in parts of the photograph being stretched into fluid shapes. Instead of cropping them, I went with the flow, so to speak. The only alterations I made on those photographs were to make sure the curvaceous edges were symmetrical. The stitched image of the altar posed a different dilemma of keeping a larger image with distorted edges or focusing on smaller and more important parts. I chose the latter. These photographs are my reaction to what I saw, distortions and all. They are not meant to be mere records or documents of the church. Also, note that these are not necessarily the final images, they are in transition from mental, digital images, to prints. We’ll see what may emerge at the end.
Pay particular attention to the final image. The very dark square you see above the column is a section of the surface they left uncleaned, the way it was. Most of the church was covered with soot coming from the candles they have been using in the church for a long time. Cleaning that, and a significant amount of other restorations on other parts like column heads, ceilings, silver, etc. brought the magnificent glow back. That is a tribute to the work of a dedicated group of young artisans of Babil Restorasyon. Although the site is in Turkish, you can follow in photographs the kind of work they do.
In the meantime, enjoy the preview.