When I was a little boy, I found my mother’s scrapbook from her teenage exploits to Istanbul in 1964 and was completely scandalized. It was that shocking moment that happens when all children realize that their parents were young once too. Since then, I’ve always associated the Turkish bustling metropolis that straddles the sides of Europe and Asia with culture, art and fun. So it was good thing  I met Demet Muftuoğlu Eşeli and Alphan Eşeli, the founders of the Istanbul’74 Arts and Culture festival, which brings together leaders in various fields of creative expression. (It’s the third year I’ve come for the third annual festival. They can’t get rid of me, it would seem.) This year did not disappoint: the photographer Mario Sorrenti; the film directors Zoe Cassavettes, Mark Romanek and Chiara Clemente; the editors Carine Roitfeld, Cecilia Dean and Jefferson Hack; the artists Nate Lowman, Aaron Young and Pinar Yolacan; among many others, all converged to talk about their various arts, and international culture in general. Not that the only stimulation came from conversation. This year, Visionaire hosted a fabulous dinner in the modernized ruins of a prehistoric structure for the new Larger than Life issue, which was followed by a party put on by the people behind the Boom Boom Room in New York. (Insert Istan-Boom-Boom pun here!)

The legendary Carine Roitfeld, arriving at the Vakko Fashion Center, to sign copies of her book Irreverent. The library actually sold out of all the copies of the book, so the former French Vogue editor, who is launching her own title, CR, this fall, started signing pieces of loose paper for her fans.

Mario Sorrenti and his wife Mary Frey arrive at the Visionaire dinner

The right of passage for any tourist (even if, like me, this isn’t your first time on the tour): Hitting the hookah bar with the American artists Nate Lowman and Aaron Young

The Another Magazine founder Jefferson Hack with his Super 8 film camera

One of the coolest women I’ve ever met: Zoe Cassavetes

Istanbul’74 founders Demet Muftuoğlu Eşeli and Alphan Eşeli outside the Vakko Fashion Center after a day of panel discussions

Grey Area’s Kyle de Woody and the artist Marco Brambilla at the one-night-only-in-Istanbul pop up of the Boom Boom Room

Tyler Thompson and his girlfriend Chiara Clemente. Chiara hosted a talk with Aaron Young, and showed some of her short biography-driven films

On the first night, we found wine: Nate Lowman, Aaron Young and Jefferson Hack at the welcome dinner

The film director Mark Romanek and his wife Brigitte with Carine Roitfeld, who was wearing a special-made (and extremely appropraite) Joseph Altuzarra top

Delfina Delettrez Fendi with  Turkish artist Pinar Yolacan. I was familiar with Yolacan’s work (she used real meat in her early pieces, which many claim inspired Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress), but I had never heard her speak. Sweet, soft spoken and smart, she’s the sort of woman who can say, “Lamb testicles that looked like marble,” and keep a straight face.

I love the Turkish flag. Here it is in its glory on the back of a boat we took down the Bosporus River

Nate Lowman and Laure Heriard Dubreuil outside the Visionaire dinner

Visionaire’s James Kaliardos and Cecilia Dean walking with Aaron Young and his fiance Laure

The pretty, polite and powerful Turkish actress Meltem Cumbul

The virtuoso violinist Charlie Siem, who performed live at the Visionaire dinner. (Which you can see HERE.)

The man looks good on both sides of the camera: Mario Sorrenti, being interviewed. His conversation with Cecilia Dean was another hot ticket at the festival. “There’s some ugliness in all of us. And they’re has to be something ugly for there to be beauty,” he told her when asked why, in one picture he did for an issue of Visionaire, he created a hologram that changed the very handsome lensman into a devil. Why does he shoot naked women so often? “[Nudity] seems like the most natural thing to me.”

Nate Lowman enjoying the Bosphurus

I’ve always said that water taxi is the chicest form of transportation. And here, Alphan merely proves the point

My local tour guide: Abdullah Inal. He didn’t know much about the historic provenance of some of Istanbul’s tourist destinations, but he did know where to go for cheap drinks and a packed dance floor, and for that I thank him