by John Echave
Goksin Sipahioglu photo exhibit at the Istanbul Modern. Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 14, 2006 © Haley/SIPA
Göksin Sipahioglu died today. Long live the king! He was the king as a pioneer photojournalist, the king in shrewd business deals, the king at engineering a news ” coup”, the king at mentoring young talent, the king at entertaining and the king with the fairest gender. No one can ask for more. A tall man with an equally big journalistic talent, he embraced every aspiring photographer with open arms to the multi-million dollar photo agency he built from scraps with his life- long partner and confidant Phyllis Springer. He called it Sipa Press. A well-known Turkish news photographer in his own right, he first went to Paris as a foreign correspondent for Hurruyet but soon realized he had a knack for business, and a legend was born. He was the scrappy kid in a block full of big photo agency giants like Gamma, Magnum, Rapho, and later Sygma. And he beat them at their own game everyday of the week. Göksin had contacts all over the world, especially in the Middle East. He reached them at a moment’s notice and the pictures of a particular event or catastrophe would arrive at Sipa as if by magic within hours, in an age where digital meant one of your digits! He knew the airline schedules by heart, he had messengers on stand by, he had airline stewardesses in his payroll, his lab ran 24 hours and pictures landed on the desks of all major publications the next day. He had beat the big boys yet again! A happy day for Göksin was having spent hours on the phone with hundreds of photographers coordinating news coverages. He never really worked a day in his life because he enjoyed his profession as much as life itself. He was the only person I have ever known who didn’t think that going to the office on weekends was a burden. His ” joie de vivre” was exemplary as well. Les Closeries de Lilas was his second “bureau”. There he entertained friend and foe with the best champagnes, caviars and pates. More than once I saw him ask the waiter to send the best spirits to a table full of photo agency adversaries. Göksin Sipahioglu invented the word “panache”. His appreciation for beautiful women was legendary, but so was he well-known for being a gentleman with the great gift of persuasion.
I first fell in love with Göksin in the 70′s when as a young director of photos at Liaison, New York I was sent to ask Sipa why our payments were delayed and my letters were not being answered. I was ready for an unpleasant time, if not a confrontation. I was severe, he was perplexed. ” Why John,” he said in his turkish- accented french, “I thought you came to Paris to have dinner with us and have a good time”. ” How much do we owe you?” And he proceeded to open the left hand side of his desk where there were thousands of dollars waiting to be counted. I thought, ” Now, here is a guy I can do business with !” That same drawer was used multiple times a day as young photographers ran to catch a flight to the latest news hot spot in the world. Göksin was a kind man and a gentle man who was completely obsessed with old fashioned, hard nosed news reporting with pictures. His tireless efforts illuminated our vision of the world for over 50 years. His broad smile, the gleam in his eyes and warm embrace will not be forgotten, and neither will his words of encouragement to young photographers. Göksin, the man, and his work will endure as a true legend in a profession now transformed into the business den of conspiring MBA’s and lawyers. Long live the king!
This in from John Echave, Executive Producer, LS Films/Blue Lagoon Productions.