These Black and White Images Reveal a Vienna Most Travelers Don’t See

Photographer Carl Yurttas captures the city’s many moods

Smithsonian Journeys Quarterly

Turkish-born Carl Yurttas (@carl.yurttas) discovered a passion for photography when, at age 13, he began to take pictures with his father’s old Russian Zenit camera. These days, he uses a cellphone camera and posts his photos on Instagram. They are not your typical picture-postcard images of opera houses and grand avenues. Shot mostly in the district where he lives near the Brunnenmarkt, Vienna’s largest street market, in one of the city’s most multiethnic neighborhoods, they reveal a Vienna most travelers don’t see. 

Speaking from his apartment in the Ottakring district, he describes why the Danube doesn’t feature much in his pictures, how Vienna has become an important transit route for refugees, and some of the ways he chooses his subject matter. 

Vienna and the Danube are almost synonymous. But you don’t seem very interested in the river. 

[Laughs] The Danube does not flow through the center of the city, like Budapest. So, although the river plays an important role for Austria, it is not really part of daily life. It’s in the suburbs, some way out of the city. I only really go there when I have visitors or during summertime with my children. 

You use a cellphone and post your photographs to Instagram. Why do you like that way of working?

I  have a small digital camera that I also use for making photos of my children and family. The advantage of a cellphone camera is that you have it with you all the time and it’s unobtrusive. Some of the images on my Instagram feed are also scanned black-and-white film.

In America many people read on screens. Is your picture of the man reading a book a nostalgic statement? 

Normally, when I take a photo, something catches my eye, but I don’t think too much about why. I just want to share a moment from daily life. You see many people in Vienna reading books and newspapers. Maybe I made this photo because I like reading myself.  

What was the occasion for the shot of the demonstration? 

Austria has become a very important route for migrants fleeing wars. The aim was to show support for immigrants and tell them that they are welcome here in Austria. I went there with my young daughter and was very happy to see so many people attending the event.

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Carl Yurttas

Head to his Instagram for more visual journals.

About Simon Worrall

Simon Worrall is a contributing writer for the Smithsonian Journeys Travel Quarterly.

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