The Turkish Lens
Four photographers on our radar that witness life in Turkey through their lenses while trying to balance the unbalanced
Text : Damla Bozoglu
Images/ Photos Courtesy Of : Begum Yetis, Erdem Sahin - EuropeanPressphoto Agency (EPA), Cansu Yıldıran and Burcu Karademir
As times get harder, we understand the importance of independent journalism and since times also got faster and picture-focused, photo journalism is what we turn our faces to. Climate crisis led wildfires burnt 53 out of 81 cities in Turkey, flood took over many others, inequality in resources and ever-changing political agendas came to light even more and all these made people of Turkey undertake the duty of softening the wounds of others and nature, unite in anger, despair and hope. An important role is, as always, on photographers who are in the right place, at the right time to show us what we otherwise could not witness.
What we may not be able to face first-person, we feel the effects of in everyday life. Turkey becomes less and less attractive in what it has to offer due to restrictive attitudes, marginalisation of groups and targeting specific groups. Losing joy and freedom demotivate citizens, yet it somehow motivates artists and creators in all categories, especially the youth. Photographers are shooting for freedom, searching for joy and intimacy; musicians are unafraid to react and make people gather with similar feelings and yearnings. Somehow our bonds are deeper and stronger, we may not feel the joy and ease we used to but our eyes sparkle even brighter when we are together.
In these feelings, today we are focusing on four Turkish photographers; to witness life through their lenses.
Honest, aggressive, as-is, Erdem Sahin isn’t here as a passer-by, he is involved in many ways and makes us be a part of the scene too. Even the birds-eye view or slightly upward tilted angles don’t take away from this quality, you find yourself in the middle of the event. Originally a photo-journalist, Sahin beautifully structures scenes by subtly handling the event, where it takes place, characters involved in it and when it happens. To be a storyteller that transfers the truth as a narrator is his gift to this world.
DB - Your work centers around specific events which are not always happy and peaceful. What world would you dream; politically, socially and economically as a photojournalist?
ES - I would like to live in a world where no politicians operated and no one needed journalists. But the world we live in has boundaries in which we do all the evil we can. In such a world, I would always prefer to be in a geography where you need journalists the most
Cansu Yıldıran became the beloved voice of the back streets of Istanbul— Their dynamic shoots capture the heart and soul of untold stories with an intimate viewpoint and are published in multiple international publications and adorned with prestigious awards.
DB - You have been in Bodrum before the wildfires took place and you captured the heartbreaking disaster with the eyes of a local. Do you believe that affected the end result? In what way?
CY - I wouldn’t consider myself a local in Bodrum, we were much more privileged than them because I was there to get out of the city for some time. I was very impressed that the volunteers supported the extinguishing work at the fire site with much hope and faith. As a volunteer, I did what I could do best and showed others the process from my point of view, and how things were. For a long time, I have been following social and political events with a different anxiety than the daily consumed news photography, because I am affected by the change of the country I live in, as we all are. Turkey is going through an intense change for many different reasons and I try to record it in a way that reminds me of the intense feeling of that day.
Burcu Karademir is the unapologetic fashion photographer whose colorful and bright photographs feel like they came right out of a movie scene thanks to her ability to artfully include set design and her talent on communicating with her subjects. Her intentional messages carry freedom around and the beauty of female body.
DB - You are politically active and never afraid of speaking your truth on your social media. How does politics affect your work?
BY - I cannot say that the days we live in are getting brighter nor leaving us alone to just be. These circumstances put me in a cycle that diversifies and encourages my production and makes me strive for more. I am concerned with the current state of things like everybody else and try to listen to my inner voice as much as I can. If there is anything that I can do to benefit others while also strengthening myself, my energy shifts to those things. I strive to shoot with that clean intention and energy. At the end of this cycle, what starts individually turns into greater happiness and hope with the inclusion of people you worked with.
Each of my breaking points, which I see as individual successes, is by choosing my own voice, being, and heart; these were the moments when I expressed my feelings without fear. All of these statements made me a much more courageous person. Because I've seen that they don't just disappear into the air, that they are embraced by places and people you didn’t know of. I don't see a solution that will lead us to better conditions other than conscious cooperation. Therefore, my duty is to combine my production with the courage I have created by doing what I know and express it in a striking way, to involve as many people as possible in this experience in different ways.
Mostly in B&W, Yetis’ portraits mostly take human bodies as subjects. Powerful models seem at ease baring what’s theirs and posing for the camera. Yetis is the witness of the scene, and is the master of showing us this intimacy.
DB - You have been living in London for some time but still visit Turkey from time to time, how do you perceive the economic, political and cultural change through the eyes of a photographer? Has anything changed since the last time you visited your hometown?
BY - Before the pandemic I traveled quite often. Since then I haven’t been back in Istanbul for a year. I follow up with the news regularly and I thought the time gap will give me a good perspective on how the city is changing. It looked and felt very different this time. From a visual perspective what used to be authentic a year ago became a reflection of the economic struggle, and the inequality gap is rising. But the country is as beautiful as I remembered if not more. The land is still so inspiring. Colours of the sea, sunset.. the light is just heavenly. I hope we can look after this beautiful place as the way it deserves.
Begum is also has her work as part of our Editions collection, you can buy one of her garments here
Text : Damla Bozoglu
Images : Begum Yetis, Erdem Sahin - European Pressphoto
Agency (EPA), Cansu Yıldıran and Burcu Karademir
Date : 25th August 2021