An internal view of the Hagia Sophia museum.
An internal view of the Hagia Sophia museum.
Photograph by Janna Dotschkal

Snapshots: Escape to Istanbul

Whenever I tell people that I am a photo editor at National Geographic, the usual reply is “Oh, you must get to travel all the time!” The reality is, I spend most of my days at the National Geographic headquarters in Washington. My expertise lies in editing and shaping the stories of our photographers in the field. While in the office, I curate the Found tumblr, along with editing and writing for Proof. Both of these incredible blogs expose me to a variety of places, eras and people. I love my job, but sometimes it can be challenging to sit in an office every day and look at photos of beautiful places taken by other photographers. After a while, I feel like I begin to lose touch with the world I see on my computer screen.

With that in mind, I try to take an international trip at least once a year, to fuel and support both the work at my desk, and my own photography. As photographer David Guttenfelder said in a recent video interview: “Sometimes you just have to see life for yourself.”

In early November I took a last-minute trip to Istanbul, a place that I have wanted to visit since first learning about its mixed historical roots and rich culture. Most of all, I desperately wanted to see the Hagia Sophia—an ancient church that was turned into a mosque and is now a museum. The domed structure is an architectural marvel. I wandered around, mostly with my iPhone, looking for new ways to photograph one of the most photogenic sites in the world. My answer came in the afternoon shafts of light piercing the windows, silhouetting and illuminating the diverse set of tourists inside. It was everything I had dreamed of, and more.

My creativity sparked, I felt renewed and connected with the world beyond just pixels and frames. As many artists discover, a limitation (such as the overexposure of a historical site) can actually result in more successful work—it forces the brain to make new connections. Now that I’m back in the office, the pictures I see feel a lot more rich, colorful and tangible.

Follow Janna Dotschkal on Instagram and Twitter.

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