Like so many others, I crossed paths with Mustafa sitting on some steps on the side of Istiklal street near Taksim square.
Easily 40,000 people pass this point every day. Istiklal is the main commercial street of a city of 17-21 million, and Taksim is the main square. He was head to toe in pink. Prayer beads, socks... all accessories... this guy is the real deal, I thought. He told me with pride that he had over 100 monochromatic outfits. I had wanted to do a monochromatic shoot for a while, here it was on a silver platter.
I proposed the idea to him and we exchanged contact information. I made a simple concept that I would come to Sultangazi where he lived and we could try to match him to different backgrounds.
We spent three afternoons in late august shooting this. He drove and we looked for colours that matched the outfits in the backseat. Mustafa was my driver and stylist. His wife Meryem helped out here and there as well. Meryem is the Turkish version of Mary, Jesus' mom, he pointed out once. She made some perfect lunches for us, always trying to keep the sugar low because of her husband's diabetes.
I watched him try to sneak sugar in here and there, and worried about the consequences.
Just like my dad, I thought.
Mustafa was born in Istanbul to a big family from Konya. He has 5 sisters and 3 brothers. Konya is one of the most religiously conservative cities in Turkey. He was studying at university, but during that time it became forbidden to be visibly religious. He sported a muslim-style beard with no moustache. He left university rather than change his beard, despite having good prospects in school. He seemed to have complicated feelings about that decision.
Early decisions like that nonetheless illustrate how uncompromising he is about his style.
After leaving school he eventually started working in textiles and building his collection of outfits. He is semi-retired now at the age of 53. He is very proud of his three sons who regularly look after him, his wife, and her sister. They must be doing something right, because Mustafa didn't graduate university, yet he and Miriam produced a lawyer, a designer, and a policeman. His sons dress like typical europeans of their age.
Colours go all the way back to the beginning with Mustafa. Even as a child he loved colours. And there is no deeper reason for his style, so he says.
But he also loves people. Recently interviewed in a magazine about Masjid Uncles (old guys always at the mosque) he underscored how much he loves meeting foreigners and people from other cultures. And I cannot help but see how these things intersect. The place where he sits and the colours that he wears really invite conversation. He is photographed every day many times, a little beacon of cuteness brightening people's first impressions of the city.
Maybe I suspect the colours of being in part a pretext because I relate. Did I really need to take these pictures, after all? Perhaps it's just an excuse to connect.
He had said on several occasions that I was his doctor.
Each time I was like ... um.... ok great ! He is so kindhearted, I could hear him say I was a cow and I would assume it was something nice lost in translation.
On the last day, in the last hours, I finally understood that he was calling me his daughter.