Istanbul’s products constitute around 60% of all Turkey’s exports. Within the bustling megacity, industry ranges from mass production of products by multinationals using the latest technology, to single entrepeneurs manufacturing goods by hand. Hayri and his business partner produce steel frames that go in advertising lightboxes for a company in France.
Small-time manufacturing is often a dangerous business, as safety precautions are often overlooked or ignored due to a lack of equipment. Nonetheless Hayri and his partner take pride in their work, saying their main source of satisfaction is “producing solid goods the way they used to in the old days”.
Hayri the Welder, a truly gentle man, entered my life whilst waiting for the ferry to Kadiköy, the asian side of Istambul. After a short while of him struggling to speak to me in English, we found out we both spoke German. He had been in prison in Germany for five years. He didn’t want to tell me why, saying only that it was a long time ago and he had moved on with his life. That seemed fair enough to me so I didn’t press the matter. We chatted for a long time, discussing life’s strange twists. He then invited me to his workshop the next morning.
On getting back to my lodgings, I inquired as to how I could get there. The lady at reception told me not to go as it was in a dangerous part of town. I went anyway. It took me hours longer than expected and turned out to be on the second floor of a huge warehouse filled with a hundred different sized workshops, all manufacturing different products for the domestic and international markets.
When I finally arrived, one of the two workers who share the workshop with him told me he was out buying steel for his latest project. After about an hour, he turned up, and showed me his work.