Portraits of an Uprising: Photo Essay From the Streets of Turkey

What started as a peaceful protest to protect an urban park from being demolished, has led to a persistent ongoing movement in Istanbul’s Gezi Park and Taksim Square against an increasingly authoritarian government. As the mainstream media tells the sensational highlights, it is important to remember the human element of a conflict. To see moments in the lives of those involved – protesters, the police, as well as bystanders – the heated moments when the teargas is being breathed in or the downtime of writing in a diary. Through these moments we can fully appreciate their struggle. Clearly these events will be remembered as a crucial point in Turkey’s history – a memorable clash of ideologies. This black and white portrait series is like a puzzle, with each portrait acting as a piece. The puzzle, when put together, gives an image of the divided country that is Turkey, a beautiful place that will remember the events of 2013 for a long time to come.

On June 11th, the police executed a heavy offensive against the people occupying Taksim Square.

Hanging out of one of the destroyed buses, a boy wears a Guy Fawkes mask.

In Gezi Park, donated food supplies were being given out by volunteers.

Holding a sign on behalf of “The Gas People” this man stands still facing Taksim Square.

After occupying the park for two weeks the people were violently removed by police on June 16th.

This man went on a rant in the middle of Gezi Park explaining how Prime Minister Erdogan wants people to think Ayran (a yogurt drink) is the national drink when really it is beer. People in the park seemed to find it entertaining.

Despite nights of fear and harassment people occupying the park found time for romance and relaxation.

Singing songs to pass time while occupying the Park.

After enduring hours of teargas on June 11th, this woman takes a break and removes her goggles.

This man looks towards the direction of the tear gas as attacks by the police continue into the night.


Colin Boyd Shafer is a Canadian Photographer and Teacher with photographic work focusing mainly on portrait projects and street photography. Currently he is completing an MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development at The School of Oriental and African Studies in London, UK. From 2008-2012 he taught at a College in Malaysia where he founded the TEDx-featured Everyone Has Hope Project, where Malaysian students teach photography to Burmese Refugees. His photographs have won a number of competitions, the most recent being the 2013 Human Rights Watch Film Festival’s Photography Competition in London. His work has been featured on the cover of Asian Photography Magazine and F-Stop Magazine and in international publications like The New Internationalist, Hype, and BBC News. His first book Di Antara (2013) is available online, featuring photographs of Malaysia and written contributions from influential figures from this country. Websites:
www.colinshafer.com and https://www.facebook.com/colinboydshafer