“Çimenlikler ya da süslemeler, meydanlara yerleştirilen saksılar ve son günlerde çok gözüme takılan dikey bahçeler...”
Röportaj: Şener Yılmaz Aslan
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How did your photography adventure begin?
I was born and raised in Istanbul. Actually, I was a little late in taking up photography. After studying electronics at a technical university, I started working professionally and dabbled in photography as an amateur for a while. Once I entered the Photography department at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in 2013, photography became the center of my life. For nearly 3-4 years now, I am working on documentary photography projects as well as more commercial promotional and architectural photography projects.
Your “Yeşil Alan” (Green Space) project has a sense of harsh reality but also some sharp humor. What can you tell us about this project?
I grew up in a family that respects nature and the value of preserving it. As a matter of fact, the projects I work on are always based on a lack of green spaces. The ongoing gentrification in Istanbul, the Northern Marmara Forests, the huge projects that are announced, planned or realized...
Today, the definition of green space in cities is changing rapidly. This concept, which was attributed to forests a decade ago, is now defined completely differently. Lawns or ornamental gardens, large flowerpots placed in the squares, and vertical gardens that I have been seeing lately… Perhaps it is due to my desire to take some of these works, which are considered out of Istanbul, out of the photography and contemporary art context, and bring them to the people on the streets.
The project is about a simple and small ironic criticism. It is made using stencil and green spray paint. With the help of the Instagram account “Yeşil Alan”, they are taken to an interactive platform, documenting the last “green spaces” remaining, with a rebellious stance that befits street art. A small plant sprouting at the bottom of the wall, concrete flowerpots filled with slim seedlings that people grow with their own efforts and place on windowsills… All of these are canvases for the “Yeşil Alan” project.
What about your “Oyuk” (Hole) project, what are you attempting to achieve?
This project actually started with the effect of hundreds of trucks I saw when I went to the Northern Marmara Forests to shoot some photos. What attracted me were the giant trucks that roamed the city like ants, carrying the sand and gravel needed as the city keeps rising higher. Perhaps it was their desire to find their nests [like ants] that took me to the quarries. Unlike the rising city, I came across ever deepening pits. At first, it was difficult to connect with the truck drivers and people who worked in the quarries, but after a few unsuccessful attempts, the “Oyuk” project materialized at the end of a few months in quarries and among construction trucks.
Are there any areas you are interested in other than photography, things that inspire you? What is the influence of the country’s agenda on your work?
In my work, I usually look for a benefit, and try to avoid hesitation about why I am taking some photos. Actually, I am interested in ecological changes as reflected in my photography projects. I collaborate with certain groups. Apart from photography production, my work can also be used in different ways such as video and the “Yeşil Alan” project. As long as there is something you really want to talk about, work and materials naturally find harmony. Our country offers plenty of issues for those who want to work on such subjects. I wish it didn’t...
Is there a new photography project or exhibition you have been working on lately?
In the ongoing project that I have been working on lately, I concentrated on the industrialization process currently taking place in the northern part of Çanakkale, the only remaining untouched region in Marmara. My family also lives in that region, and the changes have direct impact on them. There are more than 10 power plants and factories planned for the region, and they affect farmers and fishermen, as well as thousands of Chinese workers who work in the construction sites, and locals who inadvertently succumb to change with the expectation of jobs that industry will bring. It is very sad not being able to do much other than take photos maybe, after the flimsy attempts to fight them. I think the burden of remaining unresponsive is much heavier.
An exhibition covering the first leg of this project is now on under the title of “Eve Dönüş” (Coming Home) at the TOZ Artist Run Space gallery in the Yeldeğirmeni district of Kadıköy, also featuring the works of three other photographers on the “hometown” theme.
If I say music, movies, and books, who are some of your favorites?
I had the opportunity to attend the last workshop by the famous war photographer Stanley Greene, who passed away recently. As he was assessing my work, he paused and asked, “What do you listen to while taking these photos?” According to him, every image had its own melody, and he was right. I think my musical taste changes during the course of my work. Sometimes I need Bach, and sometimes I listen to Pink Floyd or U2. And I have always loved ethnic tunes.
In movies, especially in terms of photography and storyline, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Tony Gatlif and Kim Ki-duk are among the directors I admire. Zeki Demirkubuz, Özcan Alper and Nuri Bilge Ceylan are some of the Turkish directors that I like.
The writings of Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, and John Berger take up a large space in what I have been reading in the last couple of years.