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  • November 25, 2013

Snapshots: Escape to Istanbul

Whenever I tell people that I am a photo editor at National Geographic, the usual reply is “Oh, you must get to travel all the time!” The reality is, I spend most of my days at the National Geographic headquarters in Washington. My expertise lies in editing and shaping the stories of our photographers in the field. While in the office, I curate the Found tumblr, along with editing and writing for Proof. Both of these incredible blogs expose me to a variety of places, eras and people. I love my job, but sometimes it can be challenging to sit in an office every day and look at photos of beautiful places taken by other photographers. After a while, I feel like I begin to lose touch with the world I see on my computer screen.

An internal view of the Hagia Sophia Museum. November 2013.
An internal view of the Hagia Sophia Museum. November 2013.

With that in mind, I try to take an international trip at least once a year, to fuel and support both the work at my desk, and my own photography. As photographer David Guttenfelder said in a recent video interview: “Sometimes you just have to see life for yourself.”

In early November I took a last-minute trip to Istanbul, a place that I have wanted to visit since first learning about its mixed historical roots and rich culture. Most of all, I desperately wanted to see the Hagia Sophia—an ancient church that was turned into a mosque and is now a museum. The domed structure is an architectural marvel. I wandered around, mostly with my iPhone, looking for new ways to photograph one of the most photogenic sites in the world. My answer came in the afternoon shafts of light piercing the windows, silhouetting and illuminating the diverse set of tourists inside. It was everything I had dreamed of, and more.

My creativity sparked, I felt renewed and connected with the world beyond just pixels and frames. As many artists discover, a limitation (such as the overexposure of a historical site) can actually result in more successful work—it forces the brain to make new connections. Now that I’m back in the office, the pictures I see feel a lot more rich, colorful and tangible.

Light falls on the scaffolding inside the Hagia Sophia Museum. November 2013.
Light falls on the scaffolding inside the Hagia Sophia Museum. November 2013.
Tourists explore the carvings and murals at the Hagia Sophia Museum. November 2013.
Tourists explore the carvings and murals at the Hagia Sophia Museum. November 2013.
A cup of Turkish tea. Tea is served as a 'gift' after almost every meal.
A cup of Turkish tea. Tea is served as a ‘gift’ after almost every meal.

Follow Janna Dotschkal on Instagram and Twitter.

There are 26 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. BRISHTI GHOSH
    June 18, 2014

    wonderful place…. went in Istanbul in few seconds through this post

  2. Rini Hariani
    June 11, 2014

    I’m sure, that peaceful society in Turkey will preserve their lovely ancient buildings as historical heritage for next generation.

  3. M A Bukhari Artist
    February 2, 2014

    FANTASTIC

  4. Nilly
    December 6, 2013

    Had a wonderful experience in Turkiye…missing the moment still..no doubt i’ll be back..wait for me Istanbul..;))

  5. cansu
    December 5, 2013

    Fascinating pictures and comments. I am a tour guide in turkey. Even I have been in hagia sophia more than a million times I still feel excited. But there are some radical groups which want to see this beauty as a mosque again. In this point we need global support. Hagia sophia belongs to worlda heritage, not only Turkey. Please support us. Thanks a lot. Loves from Turkey..

  6. Erdem Guven
    December 5, 2013

    first of all i would like to begin my sentence with many thanks Janna Dotschkal.
    i am a tour guide with an official license from the ministry of culture and tourism in Turkey mostly working in Istanbul helping people to know everything about this city and its culture.
    i am really amazed when i read all nice and lovely comments about my country.
    but the thing which i can not understand yet is wrong categorization of societies or nationalities.
    i saw a comment which says
    #Sad to see this beautiful Church which dates back to the 500′s desecrated with symbols of Allah and scaffolding. The Turks try to give the impression that the church is being renovated, but the facts are it has been in this state of disrepair for ever. Heartbreaking. And now, the Turks want to turn this beautiful sanctuary into a mosque. Disgraceful! I wonder what would be said if the Turks wanted to turn the Vatican into a Mosque?#

    i felt really sad when i read that and also felt ashamed being not reached everyone yet with that kind of thoughts.
    i respect them all.
    Turkey now is passing through in a very important political duration and of course it has some side effects on religion and social issues.
    what i mean is , even if there are some people in Turkey that may you call as ” fanatics” i want you to know that there are also very nice and hardworking people for the whole humanity.
    personally i had never had an idea about converting that great cultural building into a mosque on the contrary my idea is to keep it as a museum for the other generations too.. and i am sure i am not the only one. when people understand that we, people in the world ,are not “americans or english or turkish or whatever” but “people” then we can live in peace.

    with my best regards on behalf of the ones who think like me.
    Erdem Guven

  7. Levi
    December 5, 2013

    Wonderful Istanbul. I need to go there and see the riches. Definitely Hagia Sophia.

  8. Max
    December 1, 2013

    Special and Great. Istanbul it’s my dream where I want to.

  9. ebru
    December 1, 2013

    thats my perfect country love it ♥

  10. FATİH BİÇER
    November 28, 2013

    ALLAHIN İZNİYLE BİRGÜN YENİDEN CAMİİ OLARAK GÖRÜRSÜNÜZ İNŞAALLAH

  11. serap
    November 28, 2013

    Canım Türkiyem!!!.. Janna perfect!!! I love you TURKEY, I love you Istanbul!!.. 🙂

  12. João Almeida
    November 28, 2013

    There’s always a scaffold inside Hagia Sofia, its almost part of the building by now.

  13. Richard Naylor
    November 27, 2013

    Why didn’t you use your DSLR? I really think you missed the boat with most of these photos.

  14. wise
    November 27, 2013

    Beautiful

  15. Margaret Collington
    November 26, 2013

    Photos lovely comments funny
    Love the posts good luck hope don’t get their way with the church x

  16. Abdul Majid Khan
    November 26, 2013

    lovely pictures

  17. Naveed Alam Khan
    November 26, 2013

    It’s too much good photo-graphics, I like it very much.

  18. Eskay
    November 25, 2013

    I was there in April this year. It was an awe inspiring visit to the Church. I love the chandeliers hanging down. Really amazing place even after so much history has taken place!

  19. Blanca Pinon
    November 25, 2013

    Fascinating pictures …

  20. lashernaviebs castillo
    November 25, 2013

    Wow……interesting one kaya gustong gusto ko pumunta ng istanbul coz i heard marami magagandang places and im super excited to be there.Dec 23 is my flight schedule.but i dicided to cancelled it because i donate my money to typhoon haiyan.ms.janna thank you for posting this beautful images keep it up.

  21. Alex Badim
    November 25, 2013

    Unusual and inspiring images shown. I myself was there and could not write with light this way. Congrats!

  22. Cassandra
    November 25, 2013

    I used to live in Istanbul and I miss it daily! The Hagia Sofia was my favourite place to visit and I have seen it too many times to count! I would go back in a heartbeat! Such and amazing place!!!

  23. Shannon Boyett
    November 25, 2013

    Lovely images Janna. I enjoy following your work.

  24. Z.
    November 25, 2013

    Sad to see this beautiful Church which dates back to the 500’s desecrated with symbols of Allah and scaffolding. The Turks try to give the impression that the church is being renovated, but the facts are it has been in this state of disrepair for ever. Heartbreaking. And now, the Turks want to turn this beautiful sanctuary into a mosque. Disgraceful! I wonder what would be said if the Turks wanted to turn the Vatican into a Mosque?

  25. Z.a siplu
    November 25, 2013

    I’ve a lot of hobby to be a Photographer Thought I’ve Photography page.but i cant actively work at this for STUPID MoNeY PROBLED.but,i always happy to try be a Photographer.

  26. os meus trilhos
    November 25, 2013

    Lovelly photos and very inspiring.

    Sérgio

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