Whether past, present or future, Joe Yackley's entire life revolves around communication: Communicating with others in different languages. Communicating news to the public. Communicating pertinent political developments to the state department. Communicating the history of Ottoman Empire and Egyptian bankruptcies in the 1870s to his dissertation director (you can't make this stuff up). And communicating the culture of a place through images.
Yackley, as it turns out, is a fitting last name. He speaks Turkish fluently. And Arabic. And German and French. Did I mention English? An expert on the Middle East, he's spent at least half of his life among cultures that most of us fail to understand. But he comes from a long line of people who try to make sense of the world for the public – a mother journalist, a father journalist, a sister journalist (and, okay, a brother in finance). Half Turkish, his name – Joseph Nezih – is the product of a father with an endearing theory that guys with Turkish first names get picked on. Thus, his brother is John Erder, but his sister is contrarily Ayla Jean. And soon, after defending his dissertation before a panel of professors at the University of Chicago, he'll be off to Washington, D.C., for 10 weeks of training before being sent to a place far-off in the world, of which he's currently unaware. In summary: Yackley isn't your average Joe.
So, as someone whose journey – pilgrimage, really – has shifted his home from Ottawa, Illinois, to the entire Middle Eastern region, Yackley has developed a nostalgic habit along the way: Photography. "I've always thought the best life is the life that has the most memories – and photography does that for me," he said. "I used to keep a journal, but I'm not the best descriptive writer. And I found that photography keeps memories alive better than the written word." After visiting and/or living in 52 different countries – a statistic attributable to the state department's thorough background check – Yackley's photographic tendency makes sense. Where many of us view each mosque's minaret with foreign eyes, Yackley sees a piece of familiarity.
His favorite place to shoot is a toss-up between Cairo, Egypt, with its iconic pyramids, and Damascus, Syria, where he spent three consecutive summers during his tenure as an Analyst/Editor for Oxford Business Group. "Everyone thinks Turkey has the best ruins. But no, I'd say the best are in Syria," he said. His work assignments gave him just enough time to decode and capture the essence of each city or country. "As a tourist, you take a lot of infamous shots, but six months is just enough time to get a sense for each place, and visit similar locations within it," he said. "So, the lighting is different at different times of the day, and at different times of the year. You get a chance to experience the place in its entirety."
Through these experiences, Yackley can teach you a lot of things: How to say "photography" in Arabic. How to superimpose a photographic image on the front of your Capital One credit card (the fish market in Istanbul, perhaps). And how an individual possibly becomes a member of the FBI or CIA. That last bit of information, of course, shall remain confidential...
View more of Yackley's shots on Flickr.
Cameras/Lenses used by Yackley:
Nikkor Lenses (28-70)/(70-300)
(Bonus fact courtesy of Joe: All Nikon bodies are interchangeable with all Nikon lenses ever made. Mind: Blown.)
Filed under: Travel Photography