Not many people need to rediscover the city they were born, raised and have lived in their entire life.
But in the case of Turkish photographer Ci Demi, a troubling mental health crisis led him to perceive Istanbul’s crowded, noisy streets with entirely fresh eyes. Born in Beyoğlu, a cosmopolitan district on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait, Demi had little interest in photography until he was 28. Instead, he spent over a decade as a copywriter and creative director for advertising agencies.
However, in 2015, after witnessing protests across the city, Demi abruptly bought a camera using a bonus he got from his day job. Soon, he became engrossed with photography as an art form, researching legendary artists and finding his first paid work in music photography. Not one to pursue his interests half-heartedly, he turned his attention to photojournalism, looking to make his mark like the photographers he had come to admire.
“You see, I’m a really mission-driven person… That same year, I decided to become a war photographer, traveling to southern Turkey to photograph the clashes between the Turkish army and Kurdish militants,” says Demi. “After I came back, I realized my photos were awful. I wasn’t able to tell the story I thought I could.”
Despite this disappointment, Demi continued to work on his craft with a local photojournalism agency, shooting numerous stories focused on Istanbul’s migrant population. But in 2019, his life took a turn for the worse. Falling into a deep depression, he quit the agency, questioning his future as a photographer and his life in Istanbul. Increasingly isolated, Demi only left his home about 10 times that year. Still, every time he did, he took his camera with him.