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Photographer documents Istanbul 'war zone' in his own backyard on Facebook

Charles Emir Richards via Facebook

Part-time photographer Charles Emir Richards posted this and dozens of other photos from protests in Besiktas on June 2 on his Facebook page, with the message, "You don't need my permission to share the photos. I think it is especially important that people outside of Turkey share them to let it be known what is going on here."

Charles Emir Richards via Facebook

Taksim, Istanbul on June 4

Charles Emir Richards via Facebook

Besiktas, Istanbul on June 2

Charles Emir Richards, an American living in Turkey, took to the streets of Taksim and Besiktas in Istanbul on June 1-4 not to join protesters, but to document the events between demonstrators and police in what he describes as a "war zone." The images in this blog post come from Richards’ Facebook page and are used with permission. NBC News’s Director of Photography, Jim Collins, contacted Richards via email to collect first-person reaction to his photos and the events that are occurring in his backyard.

Do you live in Istanbul full-time and is the area where you’ve been shooting near to where you live?
Yes, I do. I am half-Turkish and have been living here on and off for the past 15 years. Taksim is about a kilometer southeast from where I live. Akaretler, Besiktas a little less than a kilometer northeast. I am at a vortex of a triangle.

Are you a photographer?
I am a part-time photographer. It is my hobby gone crazy. I started shooting celebrity portraits for Rolling Stone over here and then, more recently, for Vogue and GQ. I don't take photographs as much as I should. Shooting the protests here for the past few days has convinced me that I was just wasting time, eating cake.

Would you consider yourself a protester?
 I wish I was brave enough to be a protester, but I am not. I agree with what they are fighting for and felt it was important to document it.

Are you concerned that the disturbances may threaten your home, property or safety in general?
Right now it is impossible to say what is going to happen. The prime minister is not bending, nor are the protesters. Everyone is meeting again in Gezi Park tonight (Editor's note: Friday). If (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan had made even minor concessions I think a lot of people were ready to declare a victory for democracy, and go home. Now I don't know, I think the weekend will tell what direction things will take.

One thing I can say is that the protesters, even the most violent, have been extremely careful not to harm anyone's personal property. At any point they could have blocked the roads with private citizen's cars and burned them to block the police. They did not, and they did not entertain the idea of raiding or looting. If a store owner wanted to open shop and help they appreciated it, if not, fine.

Charles Emir Richards via Facebook

Taksim, Istanbul on June 4

For my personal safety, I have very practical concerns, the top of the list being hyperventilating in my gas mask and it fogging up. Not seeing anything during a police raid is the worst thing I can imagine right now. I have been detained by the police twice already. I got shot twice by projectile gas canisters, which brought tears to my eyes, but is actually OK because adrenaline doesn't let you feel more than a sting until hours later. One girl I talked to (said) she was hit by a plastic bullet, and that it hurts so much that you can't move. I find that both very disturbing and threatening.

Charles Emir Richards via Facebook

Charles Emir Richards posted this image on his Facebook page on June 3 with the following comment: "The police brutally beat this man with a baton and shield. I don't know what happened to him as I was detained and released by the police soon after I took this photograph. Akaretler was a war zone tonight."

What are the latest developments that you see on the streets there? Are the protests intensifying?
Last night, the crowd was ready to greet the prime minister with a wave of hostility on his flight back from Tunisia. People were really keyed up where I was last night. There were professional protesters in the crowd from Palestine handing out double-sided photocopies of safety guidelines for gas attacks by the barricades. Everyone was on the lookout for police provocateurs in the crowd.

The people at the barricades are growing in numbers and they are ready to fight. Inside Gezi Park, people are even more determined to continue peaceful protest.

Charles Emir Richards via Facebook

Charles Emir Richards posted this photo from Taskim, Istanbul on June 4 with the following comment: "The sad thing is that the evening started like this."

There were reports of massive police movement all last night and rumors that police reinforcements were being bused in from other cities. Despite this, I never saw a single officer the entire night.

What have you been doing with your photographs besides posting them to Facebook?
Nothing. I have been posting them on Facebook as it has been the only means to get the word out about what is going on here recently. The news media here went blank on the issue, that's when I thought I should go out and shoot and post on Facebook, I felt that a document should get out from somewhere, anywhere. Until yesterday, the local media pretended that nothing was going on. On June 2, when everyone was on the streets engaging the police, CNN Turk was broadcasting a documentary about penguins.

People went and protested in front of media buildings and pasted money on their walls and doors saying if you love money that much here it is, now do your jobs. Even after that they are reporting a very light version of the protests.

Editor's Note: This interview has been edited and condensed.

Charles Emir Richards via Facebook

Besiktas, Istanbul on June 1