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Goksin Sipahioglu's Monsieur Sipa, Photographe on View at Maison Europeenne de la Photographie
Goksin Sipahioglu, Djibouti, 1967 © Göksin Sipahioglu.

PARIS.- Sipahioglu's name means son of the Spahi - the 'cavalryman'. His tall, slim stature marks him out as a leader of men - which indeed he was, both as a basketball player and a man of the press. He was born in 1926 in Izmir, and as early as the age of twelve his journalistic vocation showed itself in an investigative report he produced on underground passages in Istanbul. His determination and strength of character have been legendary since "the stork", as he was then amiably nicknamed, founded, played for and captained a sports club in Istanbul, then in quick succession joined the international basketball team and became a sports journalist, a photographer, and finally editor in chief of the Istanbul Express, the evening paper whose layout he changed in order to give photographs centre stage. His interest in analysing events and projecting himself into the future in order to imagine their consequences led him to found a political journal to which he contributed and of which he was to become director.

He hardly had time to catch his breath before leaving Turkey in 1956 to cover the Suez-Sinai War. From then on he was to be the first in many instances, thanks to his exemplary boldness and curiosity, his analytical mind and his uncanny ability to anticipate events. He was the first to enter communist Albania; the first to stay in Cuba during the Missile Crisis, freely working there in the improbable guise of a sailor; and the first to become a travelling reporter sporting a suit and tie for Hürriyet, the largest Turkish daily newspaper.

He produced both words and pictures for his reportage work, his search for scoops culminating in Paris in 1968 when he arrived to cover the events unfolding in the Latin Quarter. It now became clear to him that a link was missing in the chain from image creation to image distribution, and he became convinced that pictures could be distributed on a large scale to the world's press. With the help of his companion Phyllis Springer he decided to create "the world's largest press agency" in what was perhaps the smallest office in the world (a mere 160 sq ft). The Sipa agency was, however, on the world's most beautiful avenue: the Champs-Elysées.

The fact that Goksin was an eminent photographer is all to often overlooked. He was the archetypical travelling reporter in the heyday of the press, and the exhibition reveals his sense of framing, his taste for movement, his empathy with Mankind, and also his ability to deal with difficult lighting, to choose subjects that have made history, and to keep himself in a constant state of alert. These same rare qualities have meant that Sipahioglu, the man and the agency director, has identified, encouraged, distributed and promoted many rising talents that have since become masters of photojournalism: Abbas, Alexandra Boulat, Luc Delahaye, Catherine Leroy, Yan Morvan, Reza, Michel Setboun, Vladimir Sichov, Christine Spengler, Alfred Yagobzadeh, to name but a few. All have engaged with contemporary history, telling us the story of our world.

Article by: Agnes de Gouvion Saint Cyr

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