Istanbul is a location that’s constantly trending on Instagram.
There’s no shortage of local Instagrammers and photographers who upload absolutely stunning photos of the city on the daily. But of all the most popular Instagram accounts based in Istanbul, our favorite Istanbul Instagramer is, hands down, Sezgi Olgaç (@sezgiolgac). With an amazing eye for colorful props, pretty building façades and sweeping landscapes, Sezgi’s Instagram account is a gorgeous collection of bright, happy colors and cosmopolitan charm. Her gallery paints a vibrant and popping portrait of her big, bustling city.
Sezgi is an extremely creative and lovely individual who has many creative pursuits, such as photography, freelance writing and jazz singing. She’s consistently been featured on websites, magazines and newspapers as one of Istanbul’s top Instagrammers, including: SeeMyCity, The Guardian and Huffington Post and she leads Instagram meet-up events for photographers and fellow Instagrammers in her city.
During my trip to Istanbul, Sezgi was nice enough to meet with me for a sit-down interview, where we had a nice chat at Dandin Bakery, located in the ultra-hip district of Karaköy.
Are you a professional photographer? Is this your full-time job?
That’s a good question. Well, yes, I’m a photographer and I’ve been doing it professionally in the last two years. Before then I was just taking photos because I liked it, it was a hobby. I actually had another occupation; I had been working as a copywriter. I worked as a copywriter for 10 years for different international agencies, advertising agencies, for example. But three years ago I quit my job and I started doing freelance copywriting, and I’m still doing it. And at the same time I was a jazz singer. I’ve been doing that at the same time. I’m singing less this year.
But two years ago, my number of followers started getting higher and higher. I think it was the time people started learning my name and friends started getting interested in hiring me to take photos for them for their galleries. In the last two years I’ve been doing some stuff, but of course they’re all Instagram-related. I don’t have photo shoots and stuff. If Instagram is not involved, I don’t have those kinds of photo shoots. I’m not that kind of photographer; I’m a different kind, I guess. But, yes, I’ve been doing it professionally for the last two years.
Where do you sing jazz?
It depends, but there’s one place that I’ve been singing all the time, the whole time for the last ten years actually. It’s called Nardis Jazz Club, and it’s very close to Galata Tower. It’s a very nice place. You know, if you’re into listening to jazz, you can try . I don’t know who is playing because every night there’s a different band and different kinds of bands – sometimes a vocalist, sometimes a trio, sometimes like a tiny big band with lots of musicians.
Did you sing for fun or was it a job?
Actually, I’ve been singing my whole life. I was in a guitar band in high school. I was in a rock choir in university. I’ve been singing all the time. But it was my third year in advertising and I started meeting people, like different musicians, directors. My friends introduced me to a band, which was getting ready to release a new album and I sang a song on that album and it was the first professional experience I had. And after that they had concerts for that album and I started singing with them. After that I started taking lessons. I kind of switched and started singing jazz because I met jazz vocalists when they were having a jazz vocal workshop and I really liked what I saw, so I started studying with them. I studied for like three years, taking lessons from different jazz vocalists. After, I started singing in jazz clubs, sometimes hotel bars like the Shangri-La Bosporus and Mövenpick Otel. So it depends where I sing from time to time. Sometimes I sing at special organizations, like lounge parties for a brand or something.
How do you find places to photograph?
In Istanbul, well, of course, there are some places that you must go, like Sultanahmet Square, Karaköy, which make up very classical Istanbul photography and locations. At first I started wandering around these locations. But after that this year actually, I’m looking at lots of pictures, trying to see lots of photos from local Instagrammers and local photographers, and trying to get information if there’s a new café or a new place that has opened recently. Or sometimes a friend of mine just tells me that there’s a very interesting building somewhere. Sometimes I just have to see by myself.
I need to do more searching of where to go, what to do, because I’ve been around in Karaköy hundreds of times, so it’s not easy to find different materials. Of course, there are lots of parts of Istanbul that I haven’t seen yet. But some of those parts are not really easy to get to. So sometimes these places take longer to discover. Some scenes people are used to seeing of Istanbul. I’m trying to stay away from those classical scenes, but it’s really not easy.
What do you like to photograph?
Of course, I love cats! But if I’m taking 50 cat photos, I try to post only one or two of them, and if there’s something else more interesting in the photo, as well. I like architecture; it could be an interesting door or a wall, with textures. There are hundreds of old doors in Istanbul. People, not like portraits of course, but I like to take photos of people when they don’t recognize that I’m taking their photos – usually something like in front of a building, in front of a mosque, in a street, walking along a street sometimes.
I like colors. This is why I like Balat. You have to go to Eminönü and take another bus or a cab to go there. It’s kind of along The Golden Horn, but it’s kind of a little bit on the west. It’s ten minutes by bus or by cab from Eminönü; it’s not very central. There are many colorful buildings; old Istanbul buildings and I love photographing Balat for that reason.
What do you like about your city? What are some things that make it special?
Many different things together. Of course, it’s always really vibrant. When it’s this cold, it’s snowing and lots of things are happening on the street. Many different types of people, many different types of circles, and you can find stuff from different ages and different civilizations, you know like churches, of course mosques, like zillions of mosques! There are many churches. For example, in the Galata area there were people who were not Muslims living in those areas. Maybe Italian architects built the buildings. It’s a little different than the old part and this is what I like about Galata and Karaköy areas. It’s a great, vibrant mixture of all kinds of colors, people, history and lots of modern stuff as well.
I think it’s getting more and more international every year, meaning expats and students, of course tourists. There are many art galleries you can visit. Some areas are getting more popular recently like here and Moda. On the Asian side, it’s Moda and here it’s Karaköy. Balat is also a little bit like this but I think it’ll be more popular in a year – next year, maybe. But, recently, every time I go there I see a new café or new place.
Where have you been featured? It seems that you’ve been featured a lot as an Instagramer.
This photo, which was on the Instagram show has been on The Guardian and also on their website. It was an article about another thing actually. It was an initiative called See My City and they asked me if they could use my photo, so my photo was there. It was also used on the cover of Contemporary Istanbul, which is the biggest contemporary art show happening in Istanbul and Turkey every year. They used it last year on the cover of their exhibition application form.
But me personally, I was featured in the last one, which was Fast Magazine from Los Angeles. A group of people from Los Angeles came and we met like we did. It wasn’t just me; I think it was a list of Instagrammers. They contacted me and they asked me questions and we met and one day I took them to a place. But I think they just arranged a list of local Instagrammers from Istanbul that they liked; like ten people, maybe eight. Another recent is there was an article about tips about Instagram photography on The Huffington Post. It was full of really talented people who just shared just one tip and I was one of them. It was a lovely article as well.
Again, The Guardian had another list of Instagrammers, city photographers, I guess. The best city photographers on Instagram or something like this, and there were people from Lisbon, from everywhere all kinds of places – and from Istanbul, they featured me.
I was also on Snapchat channel of Fusion for one day. They just put new material everyday; I was just there for a day. Of course this VSCO cam is sometimes featuring some of my photos for different reasons. This is a Turkish local newspaper, this is a local Turkish website but it’s very popular.
What camera do you use?
It’s a Canon 650D. It’s actually not a very special camera. I just have two lenses, the kit lens 50 mm 1.8 and, of course, I use my iPhone, as well. For a while I worked with HTC and I used their phones. I took photos for them, like 25 photos, I guess. It was a long-time project that we worked together on. I used HTC for a while. Yeah, this is my only camera; it’s very special. Even I’m having difficulty to have it with me every day; I can’t even take this with me every day, my shoulders are killing me!
Be sure to follow Sezgi (@sezgiolgac) on Instagram and Snapchat for gorgeous photos and videos of Istanbul every day!