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Updated: Oct 26, 2021

The huge claw rolled the bundle of reclaimed rebar as a cat would toss a ball of wool from paw to paw. Lifting it up and dropping it, gradually compacting the strands of rusty iron until the ball was tossed onto the back of a waiting truck snorting impatiently.

A shout came from the cockpit of the crane from which the claw took its orders as the operator called down to us. The claw fell motionless, the man in his early thirties scurried down the ladder to greet us. They were always eager to show us their handy work and we smiled and joked as we renewed our acquaintance. Offers of food and tea were politely refused, these men have work to do and the truck was waiting.

We glanced around the compound and identified those strangely photogenic piles of forms, textures, colours and shapes, now transformed into an abstract expressionist rendering of reality by the deft strokes of the crane operator. The Ümraniye Oto Sanayi on the northern fringes of the Asian side of Istanbul was home to a vast warren of motor vehicle repair shops. Feeding upon this industry were the scap metal merchants, the tool refitters and the spare parts suppliers living off the carcasses of wrecked vehicles. This is a rich place of industry, labour and enterprise, a place of art, ingenuity and grease.


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