“Lady, Lady – audio tour – you want audio tour?” the man behind the counter urgently asked as I briskly walked past the booth. As others were lining up to get their audio tour devices and handing over their lira to learn more about Istanbul’s biggest tour attraction – I decided I didn’t want to know the detailed stories, instead I just wanted my eyes to take it all in and embrace the unknown.
While standing in line to buy my entrance ticket to Hagia Sophia I read a high level summary of the history and description of the famous site from my Istanbul Lonely Planet iphone app – and I decided that was all I needed. After all I was there on a photographic journey rather than a historical journey.
I vaguely remember coming to Hagia Sophia (meaning Holy Wisdom) on my first visit to Istanbul 12 years ago. It was my first exposure to the Islamic religion and the first time I had been in a mosque (even though it was no longer a functioning mosque). I remember being fascinated by the layout of the building – so different than the typical churches I had been in my whole life. But most of all I remember how the Hagia Sophia seemed to have such a long history of change – nothing in the United States was this old – nothing had such a long history. It made me think about and consider times and lives I had never thought about before. It was the beginning of my curiosity that has lead me on this path I’m on today – to see what else this world had to offer that I didn’t know about – to get out of the known and live in the unknown.
But this time I was here to do what I didn’t the first time – photograph it. I knew the challenge ahead of me – how do you photograph this popular site with thousands of visitors milling around every corner of the massive building? I knew one thing for certain – it would take a lot of creativity in composition and a great deal of patience.
Sometimes I was successful and sometimes I wasn’t. But for me it was 2 hours of photographic fun under the vast domes of this architectural and historical wonder. I didn’t need any audio guide to teach me anything – I had everything I needed to know right in front of my lens.
Sometimes things are just beautiful – and you don’t have to know why.