My room I was sharing with two of my colleagues at the Chankaya Palace E-Block basement was only three floors below the office of our President. When my internal line number 2054 rang, it took me only 30 seconds to the office of the President if there was any emergency. Most of the time I was breathless and I tidied myself up with a deep breath before I entered the office. This office, where the President hosted many important guests, was sunny and it was close to the peak of the hill of 1071 m altitude, viewing Ankara. There was only one problematic issue about the room for me and this was that the part where the guests were hosted was in front of the huge windows. As the sunlight always came from the opposite angle, I had to use photo-flash at all times of the day. Most of the times me, my camera and the President were together in this very elegant, but also modest room.
Everybody knew that I went to all corners of the room to create extraordinary photographs as much as I could and that I was striving to spend more time there. I witnessed many significant discussions in this room, where many important decisions were taken, however, my job concentration made me completely deaf to all things. When I was trying to shoot a good photograph, sometimes the assistant or the principal clerk wanted me to leave, saying, “Have you not been able to take that photo yet?”, but most of the time I continued working as I did not hear what they said. Sometimes I left without having taken any photos as I understood that President Gül, who I was following very carefully, was in low spirits and I thought that I should not be around. Sometimes he himself made a gesture, meaning I should leave. Sometimes I was the third party in discussions. As I was going around trying to take a good photo at the right time, and when the Pakistani President asked, “So many photos are being taken but we have not seen anything yet”, our President wanted me to answer and I said that we were preparing an album of memoires.
Everybody know President Gül was interested in photography. Whenever he saw a classical camera I was using for trials, he used to ask, “Is this new?” and he wanted to use it.
Sometimes when I went to his office to show an album or photographs after a visit, we had chats about photography. He made some comments about them and I showed him some photos, asking him whether he remembered when they were taken. For some of these photos, he sometimes shared important details about the background, saying, “This moment was when the name of the third bridge was decided on.”
In Istanbul our President’s office for the summer was in the area of Tarabya where the Huber Mansion was. The Huber Mansion is currently under construction and he had used it for a brief period and his office and the residence at Tarabya were converted into a magnificent place by the First Lady’s arrangements. It was worth watching the admiration of the guests. I could have thought that this was exaggeration if I had not heard the French President Holland say to the President, “It will be really very difficult to host you at Versaille Palace after having seen this place” myself. I had also witnessed the admiration of the German President Joachim Gauck for the Tarabya residence.
I have always believed in the positive effect of places on people. Therefore, I used to think that the President’s Istanbul programs were always more colorful and that the positive effect of the place was reflecting on his face. This positive effect was usually at a high level, but we also had problematic times… Our plane having been crashed by Syria was only one of these moments. The President was waiting for the Commander of the Air forces for the briefing and his thoughtful state at the meeting table is one of the moments from the Tarabya office I have not forgotten.
I considered every moment I had in the Ankara or Istanbul offices special and I tried to document those moments besides photographs too…
For 990 days I have witnessed numerous nice and special moments with the President Abdullah Gül. I considered my job an important experience for myself. During this period in 33 months I generated more than 200 thousand photographs. I documented numerous important events with my camera. There have been many events I have not forgotten; the funeral for our 12 soldiers who died at the helicopter accident in Afghanistan, our President attending the senate opening with his wife for the first time, our visiting him at the hospital because of his ear illness and the expression in his eyes when he took his son’s diploma in his hands at his graduation are the special moments for me beyond photos. And of course there are others that will stay with me forever.
Each second at Chankaya Palace was full of teachable experiences. For 33 months I discovered a world, about which I knew nothing before. I followed up the correct moment instead of shooting every moment. I think somebody around me taking my photos all the time would disturb me too. Therefore, while I was doing my job, I tried to leave moments for the President to feel comfortable.
I have tried to explain a structure such as Presidency, usually not shared with others, from the eyes of a photographer for everybody to understand. These photos making notes in history are not mine any longer, but they belong to everybody who want to see them.