Zenfolio | Haluk Safi | Oil Wrestling Story with Black and White Film

Oil Wrestling Story with Black and White Film

October 12, 2013  •  1 Comment


I started to take photos of Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling in 2013.  The project will last till when I say, "it is OK now". Perhaps I will collect at most 7-10 pictures in every visit that I will say it is worthwhile to publish. Therefore please visit this site with coming pictures every year.

You can see my oil wrestling gallery which was taken in 2013. Pictures were taken with Black & Wjhite Ilford HP5 400 film, with Nikon 28mm AF D f/1.4, Nikon 35mm AF D f/2 and as a camera Nikon F100. The films are developed with Adox Adonal (rodinal) developer.


"Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling" is recognised as part of the of UNESCO cultural heritage and is one of the oldest sport manifestations in the world which has been continuing since 1357 in Rumeila. "Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling" which has been bounded with a tradition of almost 650 years, hosts contests for a week with the active participation of the media, artists and personalities from Turkey and from all over the world, milions of spectators and with a varying array of activities every year. Head wrestling and other forms of wrestling contests generate great enthusiasm.

Oil wrestling (Turkish: Yağlı Güreş), also called grease wrestling, is the Turkish national sport. It is so called because the wrestlers douse themselves with olive oil. The wrestlers, known as pehlivan (Persian: پهلوان‎ meaning "hero" or "champion") wear a type of hand-stitched lederhosen called a kisbet (sometimes kispet), which is traditionally made of water buffalo hide, and most recently has been made of calfskin.

Matches are held all over Turkey throughout the year, but in early summer, around 1000 competitors gather in Kırkpınar for an annual three-day wrestling tournament to determine who will be the baspehlivan ("chief wrestler") of Turkey.


Ottoman chroniclers and writers attest that the Kırkpınar Games have been held every year since 1362, making them the world's oldest continually sanctioned sporting competition.

Wrestlers oil one another prior to matches as a demonstration of balance and mutual respect. If a man defeats an older opponent, he kisses the latter's hand (a sign of respect for elders in Turkey).


Haluk Safi


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