Istanbul is one of the cities in which I have felt most welcomed. Perhaps it helps that I look similar to the locals, which is funny really because usually when I’m travelling — because of my dreadlocks- I attract shouts of:
‘Hey rasta! Jamaica?’ ‘No dude!’ I reply, ‘California, man!’
Which people always think is funny.
One afternoon in Istanbul I wandered into a barber’s and said:
“Merhaba!” (hello) and got a long reply in Turkish. When I obviously didn’t understand they looked at me perplexed.
So I said:
“American!” and they laughed. “Not Turkish?” said one. “No”, I replied. Very surprised, they welcomed me into a chair.
My father was African-American, dark skinned with big bright eyes, beautiful long hands and a very gentle, quite manner.
My petite, green-eyed blonde Greek mother was definitely not quiet, and when I see the fiery spirit of my little girl, who most certainly looks Greek with her olive skin and almond-shaped eyes, I recognise my mother’s beautiful, intense Mediterranean spirit.
So that mix of dark skin and Mediterranean features allows me to get lost in a crowd of Turks. I’ve never lived anywhere where I looked like most of the people; it’s pretty cool.
I often travel with my family in tow — although my blonde wife didn’t feel so inconspicuous here. There was a lot of staring, especially by the men, and she wasn’t sure how to deal this.
I like how my children help me connect more to the culture that I’m visiting. Children investigate the world in a totally beautiful way. They approach everything afresh —
why is this like this? Why are they like that?
But also people are just more interested in you when you have children. Especially in kid-loving countries like Turkey. The kids talk to people in that open way when they sense that people are interested in them.
Travelling with them pulls you out of your bubble, and into experiences that you wouldn’t normally chance upon.
One morning when I came out with my family we were having breakfast on the terrace of a cafe. A large truck appeared, driving down a narrow road and attempted to turn a corner. It immediately got stuck. People appeared from all the shops and started to help the driver.
A few passers by joined in too, and within minutes a crowd was ushering the truck around the corner safely and without incident. Then the crowd dispersed and went about its business.
Even my son noticed how unusual for us that sense of togetherness is in the city we call home (London).
I want my children to travel because I want them to see that really we, as people, all of the same — with the same desires to survive, to thrive, to look after our families. And it´s not just about the colour of our skins, but it’s the way we do things, it’s what other cultures open us up to.
And it’s about seeing all the things we do differently as well. It’s getting out of the habitual ways of thinking, of seeing things, of explaining things.
One thing I never want my children to ever think is there is only one way of looking at things. That’s like putting your mind in a prison.
Coming to London was one of the most inspiring and confidence boosting things I did for myself and my career.
Something that drives me to take photos is this thought that here we are in this wild and messy world — so don’t we want to experience, to drink in, everything that we see and do, in a way that makes us feel more alive?
After all, as Richard Dawkins wrote:
After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it?
I’d love to know what you think of my photos and story. Please let me know by commenting below!
Have an awesome day,
Anthony and Diana