23/02/2012

Girls on Film: Gender in the Republican Era


I stumbled across a wonderful blog today called One Man's Treasure, founded by Istanbul transplant John Tooey, a man with admiration for the kind of anonymous black and white photography one can pour through for hours in the antique shops behind Istiklal Caddesi. Tooey seems to have stumbled on a collection showing various poses of women in the Republican era in want seems to be a hint at cross-dressing culture. It doesn't take a wild leap of the imagination to infer an underground lesbian culture at the turn of the century of the popularised in Britain by the eye-opening series "Tipping the Velvet." Although this is mostly conjecture, the beauty of anonymous photography is in pulling the clues together and referring to history. As noted by Tooey, 

"lesbian and cross dressing subcultures existed in Berlin, Paris and London and in certain ways, Istanbul [...] was more self-consciously European than it is now. Still, if it was here it has been erased from history books. Even contemporary Turkish feminists confess ignorance of any such subculture. On the other hand, it’s the nature of collecting to be selective.  It’s hard to pass up an old photograph of a woman in man’s clothes even if the explanation turns out tamer than the image implies. So, are these photographs evidence of something more interesting and subversive taking place in Turkey than we are likely to find in the usual memoirs and reflections?"




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