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Founder of the reowned SIPA picture agency Göksin Sipahioglu

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By Euronews
Founder of the reowned SIPA picture agency Göksin Sipahioglu

Göksin Sipahioglu is known as one of the greatest photo-journalists of his day. 81 years old, and originally from Turkey, he’s an adopted Parisian. The founder of the renowned SIPA picture agency, he’s published a collection of images from the events of May ’68 in Paris, immortalised on film. 40 years later, strolling around the places which were at the heart of the student revolt, this witness to contemporary history shared some of his memories with Euronews.

Göksin Sipahioglu: “This is the paper of Sunday/Monday, 12th of May… this is the riot… and here’s the full back page, Paris woke up to see this. And that’s me… I was working for a Turkish paper, at the time I was a correspondent for Hurriyet. They had the picture from Agence France Presse. They recognised me and wrote there, “our correspondent Goskin Sipahioglu,” and there, “This is not Vietnam. This is Paris.”

EuroNews: “You were a correspondent for two years in Paris, you covered quite a few stories, in Sinai, Cuba, Albania, pretty much everywhere…”

GS: “…Yes, but in Paris I hadn’t done anything! I mean, before, I’d done some stories for magazines about Turkish artists in Paris, but that was purgatory for me! It was quite an important event, very important, even. It was the first time you’d ever seen something like that happen. I even feared that it was revolution. “ “There, the CRS are still moving behind the students… there, they’re ready to attack.” “That was the big attack. There was nothing like it.Really, they were, I mean, wild. They shouted and jumped up and down – it was terrible. I was right opposite them. You had to be there to take picture, and luckily, I was…” “I am proud of the photo of Cohn-Bendit at the Sorbonne too. There were lots and lots of photographers, but no-one had the idea to go behind him and ask. When I asked “can you look at me?” he looked for about five seconds. I could only take one single photo of him… and it was good…” “Another shot I really like is this one … it’s the children the day after trying to get to school. I had stayed there till morning to see what was going to happen. The people looked at all the rubbish and stuff… “ “There were hundreds of CRS riot police, and other officers, and opposite hundreds or thousands of student. There were lots of photographers but no-one went up to her because of the risk of getting a tear-gas canister. Me… I followed the girl for a moment and said to myself you have to take risks when you’re a journalist. I went just behind her, and the bombs were falling left right and centre, exploding everywhere…I really like this photo to tell the truth. Because, you know, she was a woman alone. There were hundreds of CRS in front of her. One woman against the CRS like that, she was really courageous. No-one ever knew who she was…”

EN: “How was Turkey viewed at the time?”

GS: “You know, in Turkey, 68 was also a very very important date… 68, 69, 70 was when the anarchist left, the maoists, communism and so on blossomed in Turkey. And unfortunately there were many, many events, many deaths… the leaders died… I mean killed… the leaders were hanged … it was something really bad in Turkey’s history, and it was most probably spurred on by May 68”

EN: “As a photo-journalist and reporter, what did you think of the events at the time? Were they significant or ridiculous?”

GS: “No no, it wasn’t ridiculous. Really it wasn’t ridiculous because you just didn’t know what was going to happen. At one point there was real fear. But luckily, the month of May came to an end, the holidays came… and De Gaulle had won. He called on the people, when a million marched on the Champs Elysees… and you said good, it’s over.”

EN: “Do you think that time has left a real legacy?”

GS: “Absolutely, yes. They said that nothing came out of May 68… Firstly, I had a friend who told me, “Ah, because of that, we’ll be able to go to work in jeans!”. That, and afterwards you know, sexual freedom arrived, and it was still good! And also, you can’t forget the workers. They won lots of things. You can’t say “nothing was won”. Cohn Bendit was right: he says “forget 68, we won.”