”That day, as I looked at those photographs and gave her this photo album, I knew that she would respect the memory of the Old Girl and that when the time came, she would probably return the album to its owner. I had seen it in her eyes, she felt uneasy because she was aware that she was being entrusted with something important… That is why, on that winter day of 1998, as I looked through those drawers full of photographs, I held out to her the ‘Film Negative Album’ bearing the fingerprints of so many people who had passed away long ago.”
This is his favourite corner in this apartment in Nişantaşı, laden with memories going back a hundred years… The old man spreads out before me the of lives of heroes that had been squeezed into the drawers under the elegant, handmade sofa. Aunts, uncles, acquaintances, friends are all lined up before me, with the looks and poses and the photographs of a century ago. People, whose presence we have felt among us, now smile at us, melancholically their stories surround us. While we try to choose among the hundreds of photographs, I see in his eyes not the bliss of reminiscence, but the melancholy brought on by the recollection of a life long past. With the confidence of one who, when his time comes, is not afraid of his journey to the unknown, he says:
”Take this, I want you to have it…”
He holds out to me the tiny, black leather album. His voice is calm, betraying no emotion. He starts telling me the story of the faded, worn out album he is holding.
”The pictures in this album were inside the blood-stained camera my father gave me when I was 13. The camera was given to my father by a friend of his, it belonged to a British soldier who died in the Dardanelles War. It was a folding cartridge Kodak, my father had cleaned the blood stains and had finished the film in the camera taking photographs in the mansion, then he developed the photographs and put them in this album. I used that camera for many years… I had always wanted to have a camera, I was so happy to have it… I took my first photographs with this camera, then it became worn out and somebody put it away somewhere. You must take this album, I will not hear of any objections.”
The story of the black leather album passes from hand to hand. A story which belongs to the enemy, which has been forgotten and vanished almost completely.
I quietly take the precious bundle and I leave the house, carrying in my bag the weight of lost lives and feeling both strangely excited and melancholic. Later on from time to time, I will look hesitatingly, at those pictures, I will not know what to do with them and I will share them only with very special people. The Anzacs, the Dardanelles War, the sea battle, the landing, a great war based on blood/gun powder/suffering/starvation, soldiers fighting the enemy, sleepless, exhausted, starving soldiers, young people, people who run boldly towards death in order to protect their land, we, who owe our independence to those dead soldiers, the youth of today, oblivious of all the sacrifices, stories that become legends, stories that sound like legends, life and death intertwined… There is a time for everything, nothing happens by chance, that much I know.
In 2001, the book of memories of the ”Old Girl” is published, and one day he says, ”I will go after holding a praying gathering for my mother on the anniversary of her death.” Nothing deters him, he is insistent, and indeed, about a year later, we lay him to rest in the Kandilli Family Cemetery, next to his mother, as he had been repeatedly telling us for six months, and on his bequest, we sprinkle the remains of his mother’s Chalimar perfume on the grave.
A year later I am asked to write the text for a documentary on Gallipoli. I read everything that I can lay hands on, but the documentary is not made and the story of the war nestles inside me. Four years later, during a conversation, I decide the time has come, I take a deep breath and I start talking about the album.
The negatives, which had been waiting silently in the album, are developed and many different images emerge. A sign, a detail, faces, clothes, letters, numbers, arms, horses, signboards on buildings… Children, nurses. A camp site by the Suez Canal… Is it Mena, or Magdaba, or Zeytoun.. the trail is pursued. All camp sites are scanned on the internet, the clues point to the Zeytoun camp, to Ismailia… Esma—eleyya, according to the Egyptian pronunciation, and Zatoon… A crashed plane, train tracks, hats, military signs… In the digital archives I examine anything that can constitute a clue to lead me to the realities of those days, from the texture of the soil in the campsite to the details of the clothes. Photographs of Anzacs who died in Gallipoli, registrations in the Australian War Memorial archives… Soldiers registered in the New Zealand archives… There are similarities; I hesitate, and I can never be sure. Then I start reading all the soldiers’ diaries that I can get a hold of. Days and nights, weeks and months pass by… I ask the New Zealand Embassy for help, I meet with Colonel Jessie Gunn and Deborah Stowe. Gunn says “the lettering on the album is characteristic of New Zealand”, he makes comments on critical matters. Then, first the Egyptian artist Khaled Hafız, and then his friend, the photography expert Berry Iverson, come to my rescue and I join in on the adventure.
Not one of the people depicted in these photographs, taken 92 years ago, is alive today. Neither the soldiers, nor the civilians in Ismailia…..But there is a shadow in some of the frames, a shadow left behind by the photographer, a soldier from New Zealand…. Like so many other World War I soldiers ”the shadow”, on his journey to war, probably hid his not so small early 1900’s folding camera in a pocket to capture his experiences far away from home.
I found this to be an imaginative and moving work, one that transcends nationality and language to explore our common humanity… Being at the intersection between history and fiction, Emine’s work occupies an interesting creative space. / Peter DOWLING, Publishing Manager, Reed Publishing (NZ)
Based on her research Emine Çaykara narrates to the photographs in the album depicted in The Entrusted Shadow. In an adventure that begins in New Zealand and reaches the Abud Mansion on the shores of the Bosphorus she becomes the voice of the Entrusted Shadow. / Ihsan YILMAZ, Hurriyet Daily
The legacy of “The Entrusted Shadow” is now entrusted in us. A story of a soldier who lost his life in Gallipoli and his 8,500 New Zealander comrades. A soldier who is only identified by the shadow he casts in the photographs he captured. / Avni OZGUREL, Radical Daily
”The weather is nice and they have changed their outfits. It is inspection time… Ammunition pouches, backpacks, that is, the 36 kilos of equipment they carry about every day has been spread out on the ground.
There are telling signs on the ground, if they are signs… The abbreviations M (Mounted) and R (Rifles), Squa, 26th B (Battalion).. Can addition to the MR abbreviation be indicating the Mounted Rifles, Ted’s company and his friends in the camp, is it the 26th Battalion?
This is interesting, because… We know that at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the war, companies and battalions were merged and were given new numbers and names. Among the units formed in Egypt in 1916 and in 1917 which included New Zealanders there was also the 26th Battalion of the Anzac Mounted Forces, but this unit was made up of soldiers coming back from Gallipoli and of new recruits.
We know that the soldiers, who had come back to Egypt from Gallipoli, had depressed everybody, and that this had led the authorities to worry that the Muslim population of Egypt might revolt against the English administration…
Whereas the soldiers, whose pictures Ted shot, do not exhibit any sign of having been traumatised; it is as if they have never experienced the war, they look comfortable…” Emine Çaykara- The Entrusted Shadow