The moment the wrestlers stepped into the green meadow and started wrestling was like a scene from 100 years ago.
Their posture and appearance and the feelings reflected on their faces were each a different portrait for me. The sounds of 40 drummers influenced me a lot. You become hypnotized by that sound after a while, and you find yourself in a different world.
Edirne, which was one of the capitals of the Ottoman Empire, is a door that opens onto Europe from Turkey. Of the traditions that survive to the present day, Kırkpınar’s oil wrestling is the most outstanding. Wrestlers have come from all over Turkey for 650 years compete with each other in Edirne. Kırkpınar, the host of the oil wrestling competitions, one of the oldest sports in the world, is a key attraction due to its impressive atmosphere.
Before and after wrestling, the wrestlers spent time in the green area full of trees outside the wrestling arena. This place resembled a little camp, and here the wrestlers were applauded. While the winners were congratulated, the losers were also cheered in that place. In addition, local Roma living in Edirne livened up the atmosphere with music. When it was time to compete for the top position, it was as if life stopped in Kırkpınar. The audience held its breath as they were watching this competition.
Paolo Pellegrin was born in Rome in 1964. He was educated in the fields of architecture and photography before working at Newsweek as a contracted photojournalist. Pellegrin became member of Magnum Photos in 2005 and has received the World Press Photo award eight times. He has also won many other prizes, such as the Olivier Rebbot Award and the Robert Capa Gold Medal. He has published several books, including “Kosovo 1999-2000: The Flight of Reason,” “Cambodia” and “Bambini,” and his exhibitions have been showcased around the world. Pellegrin currently lives in New York.
For an interview with Paolo Pellegrin, see www.timeinturkey.org