I had the privilege of having two special visits to the largest and one of the smallest churches in Istanbul. Built more than a millennium apart, the two churches allowed me to experience the truly magnificent space and works in Hagia Sophia and the jewel-like presence of Panagia Isodion. My interest in these sacred spaces was and remains, photographic. That said, it was impossible to escape the extraordinary feeling when I touched the gold mosaics inside the window wells of the Great Church. It was like shaking hands with the artisans who laid them there over 1,400 years ago. The small but intricately ornate Panagia Isodion was mesmerizing with its cozy feeling and the overwhelming details all around.
These photographs represent my choices of frames, selected from an infinite number available; the view from the vantage point I had the privilege of attaining; the detail I chose to include in my photographs. One of the photographs in the Hagia Sophia collection, looking towards the entrance from its great dome, invariably elicits questions about the blue floor noticeably strong on the second floor. “How did you get that area to be blue?” is the typical question, often followed by “why?” Truth be told, that is the natural color of the blue sky reflecting on white marble on the floor after white balancing for the interior color. It appears striking because most people have not seen it from the vantage point of the great dome to experience the blue sky bouncing off the floor. Even then, our eyes would correct that to remain “white marble”. Such is the nature of photography.
Sacred Spaces Large and Small: Hagia Sophia & Panagia Isodion
Some of the photographs in the Panagia Isodion collection look like cutouts with non-rectangular shapes. In the small space of the church, I took quite a few photographs with a rectangular format fish-eye lens which produced extreme distortions. As I corrected the distortions, I noticed the organic shapes emerging due to the extreme corrections. Instead of cropping the rectangular center area, I chose to keep the organic forms. My only addition to that was to make sure that they were symmetrical by eliminating the parts that disturbed the symmetry. The shapes that emerged have to do with the angle of view, distance from the objects, and whether I decided to correct vertical or horizontal distortions or both. There is one photograph in the collection that is fully corrected which is hard to distinguish from photographs taken with a rectilinear lens with no distortion. The Turkish art, travel, lifestyle magazine Cornucopia mentioned these photographs and exhibits when they were first exhibited. Here are two screen captures from their page.
ArtStor.org, the art and art history research center, acquired fifty photographs from my Hagia Sophia collection, cataloged and made them available to researchers. I am pleased to have provided unique views of the Great Church to the scholars. Hagia Sophia is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightly so. Recently restored and cleaned, the interior space of Panagia Isodion gleams with gold paint and riza (or revetment, chased silver icon covers), has a mesmerizing quality.
All the photographs are printed on aluminum using the dye sublimation process. It is an exacting process that takes several steps and much time, but the results have a feeling of depth, unlike other substrates. The resulting print has the image “in” the substrate rather than “on” it. The surface is resistant to image damage and can be wiped with a damp cloth if needed. Like other substrates and artwork, it is best to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. The prints are ready to hang using an integral aluminum frame on the back and are quite lightweight.
These open edition prints are priced at $500 each with a $100 discount during the opening reception on November 7, 5:30-7:30 PM. Should you wish to buy any please contact me. The prints on the exhibit will be available for pickup after the closing. If a photograph you would like to purchase is sold you may place an order with payment.
Here are a few photographs from the day of the hanging of the photographs: