Yunus, a young Turkish waste picker, is on his way back from a round of the streets of Istanbul. He was photographed in the tourist district of Sultan Ahmet. The photograph highlights the striking contrast between two parallel worlds: on the one side Yunus walking in long strides, hauling his heavy burden of waste; on the other a tourist in flipflops, leisurely dragging her wheeled suitcase. Each of Yunus’ tours lasts for about two hours and covers a distance of almost ten kilometres. He does on average four or five of these per day, six days a week. Aged 16, he’s part of a group of a dozen young waste pickers who settled together in a patch of urban wasteland in the Suleymaniye neighbourhood. All natives of the region of Aksaray (about 700 km from Istanbul), the group collectively bought a truck and organized themselves as a cooperative with no chief above them.
Istanbul is not a flat city, quite the contrary: during his 2-hour tour, Yunus will first ascend from his starting point located 35 meters above sea level to 59 meters and then descend again. on the side of the Sea of Marmara up to 12 meters, then go up towards the tourist district of Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque, Saint Sophie …) at 40 meters to finally return to its starting point by going up first to the top of the Grand Bazaar at 61 meters and then descend to 35 meters.
Pascal Garret et Bénédicte Florin