Photo Essay: Istanbul, Turkey

I travel the world because I believe in living in the arena rather than judging from the crowd. Many of the best ideas on health and happiness are the ones that are being used on the front lines of life, and so I do my best to get out there, track them down, and share them with you here.

While I’m traveling, one of my goals is to create beautiful photos of the people, culture, and history of a place. I care about creating art and getting better at it because I believe that people who explore, contribute, and create will live longer, more fulfilling lives. Creating things isn’t just an artistic choice, it’s a healthy life choice.

The images in this photo essay are from Istanbul, Turkey. As always, all photos are my own.

Istanbul Photos

Istanbul photos
A young man sells chestnuts in Taksim Square at night. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
Roasted chestnuts are a popular treat in Istanbul. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
This man is selling small rings of bread known as “simit.” These carts can be found all over the city. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
My roadside chef spread some spices as I grabbed a bite to eat. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
A man stands alone on Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
A woman plays street music in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
Sultan Ahmed Mosque during early evening in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
Early evening in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
Two men fish in the Bosphorus from the European side of Istanbul. The Asian side of the city can be seen across the water. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
The mighty Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
A small building along the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by James Clear.)
Istanbul photos
Night falls over the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by James Clear.)

A Quick Story

While walking along Istanbul’s most famous street, Istiklal Caddesi, I passed a small girl playing an accordion for money. I didn’t think much of it at first as I had already passed a handful of musicians along the street.

But almost five hours later, I walked back along the same road and there she was again. Still playing her accordion and looking as if she had never moved. My heart went out to her. I was reaching for my loose change, when a thought flashed through my mind and I paused.

When you see a small child playing an accordion for hours, it’s natural to want to help. But the reason her parents put her out on the street in the first place is because they know people feel sorry for her and that’s why they give her money. So if you give the child money, then her parents have one more reason to put her back out there for 12 hours tomorrow. You’re supporting a good cause and a bad situation at the same time.

I thought it was terrible that she was out there all day, but I decided not to give her money. I didn’t want to support that type of system.

Istanbul photos
A young girl plays an accordion for hours in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by James Clear.)

What Would You Have Done?

I don’t think there is a right answer to situations like this, but one thing I know is true: you vote with your actions and sometimes you’re voting for more than one thing.

Questions of ethics and morals and integrity are often the hardest ones to answer. The only real way to feel at peace with the mixed consequences of tough decisions is to be clear about what you believe. Then you can let your principles guide you.

What would you have done in this situation?