Through the labyrinth of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, artistry is tucked away in less-explored pockets. Within the historical Hans (overnight inns) once used for traveling merchants, lie hidden workshops occupied by conventional craftsmen. They’re a sight to see, if you can find them. Berlin-based portrait photographer Markus Altmann did, and has spent time exploring the magic between the walls.
It was here that he discovered metal, gold and textile experts performing unchanged tasks, abiding by their own aesthetic and tradition. Some have impressively worked in their trade and in the same workshop for more than 40 years. It seems we could all learn a lesson from traveling back to the basics, Markus explained —
“It is amazing what can be done by hand, and what has traditionally always been done this way. We are just losing awareness of it, getting more and more used to industrial production processes.“
On the technical side of things, Markus faced the challenge of working with limited available light in such dark spaces. Fortunately he had the spare time to return on another day that offered better light, unlike the constraints of typical editorial assignments. Although there were occasional language barriers, nothing couldn’t be communicated through gesture. The craftsmen were happy to have Markus, many of them even welcoming him with a taste of the fuel that keeps them going: tea.
“I never had that much black tea in one single day in my life. I was offered a glass in practically every other workshop – a courtesy you just can’t decline!”
The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest markets in the world, visited by up to 400,000 people per day with nearly 26,000 employees. Buried in the commotion and chaos are these few dedicated artisans living for their trade, loving what they do and remaining one of Istanbul’s best kept secrets.