Tag Archives: Black and White

Non-Hospital Scenes (NHS)

Street photography is not a genre that I often associate myself with, and despite the fact that David Bate writes about genres as “not fixed, they are mutableGenres are processes, which evolve and develop or mutate into hybrids”, I was stuck in a rut when it came to producing a set within the genre in black and white 35mm film.  Since the Gezi Park Riots in the summer of 2013 in Istanbul, I stayed away from compositions that were far too out of my own control, perhaps I was becoming, if not, became a control freak.

Since leaving my medical career behind, I never looked back and whilst not even thinking about my life back then, a friend of mine suggested that I should not waste what I have learnt in those 8 years and suggested that I could somehow incorporate that knowledge or experience to my photographic work.  So what did I learn from my past career?  One thing that is very clear, don’t embark on a long journey that you do not feel absolutely passionate about; not having much time for yourself outside of your career becomes all too consuming when you don’t enjoy what you do.  But apart from this generic textbook life lesson, I did learn that hospitals are peculiar places.

Yes, hospitals are peculiar.  There was this one time when I saw a man walking down the corridor of a psychiatric hospital with a hawk on his shoulder.  I was so shocked that I needed to verify what I was seeing with a colleague of mine. The following few days we were confronted by many avian references dotted around.  In another hospital there was an elevator of doom, that what we called it, as it did not have a door or any other way of securing one’s self- the perfect teen-slasher movie prop.  Even the more mundane things were peculiar- how many people can imagine watching a South Asian dance performance right in the middle of the hospital or buying the freshest, most exotic fruits in the neighborhood?

Coming across peculiarities within a hospital is not something I could have controlled as most happened by chance, but I was able to find things or places within grounds of several hospitals that many would not imagine that it belonged.  The project that started with just photographing the people outside of hospitals quickly became about the unexpected, the Non-Hospital Scenes.

Gezi Park

Several months ago I published a mini series of images that was inspired by the summer riots of Istanbul- resISTANBUL.  Just over a year after I wanted to share the actual images from the numerous days that thousands of people protested not only to save a small green space in the centre of urban Istanbul, but also to protect the voices of millions against a government that is getting more corrupt each day.

The images were taken with a digital camera and then converted to film to allow a complete tactile control of the printing process.  As the actual voice of a protestor is stronger than a digital signature or “like” on a social media platform, processing with analog techniques felt absolutely right for this body of work.

Ara Güler: The Man Who Shot Istanbul

The first time I came across the name Ara, literally meaning in-between, was in Istanbul.  Ara Cafe sits snuggled between a busy bustling high street and a quiet narrow street meandering towards the Bosphorus.  Little did I know that this exact building was where the world renowned photographer  Ara Güler grew up.

Ara was born in Istanbul to an Armenian family in 1928.  Growing up, his goal was to become a film director or a script writer.  Although he became Turkey’s most celebrated photographer, he did reach his goal in 1975 when he directed the surrealistic 18mm movie, End of a Hero.  He started working for newspapers as a photographer and as he became more known, in 1953 he met one of the founding members of Magnum Photos, Henri Cartier-Bresson.  This meeting became the pivotal moment in his career as he became the Turkish representative to the photographic agency.

His list of awards is endless and it includes Master of Leica in 1962 as well as being listed as the Top 7 Photographers of the World by The Photography Annual Anthology.  He is most renowned for his Lost Istanbul work where he stays faithful to his photojournalistic roots but this did not stop him from travelling the world and photographing people as famous as Sofia Loren, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

No matter which part of the world he may be photographing, people always feature in his works.  Whilst some of these maybe joyful or playful, Güler often portrays social issues.  He does not shy away from showing the uncomfortable or the sinister.  His Leica camera has captured Istanbul through decades of change and it would not be inaccurate to say that these hold an archival value.  The feeling of melancholia that resonates throughout his Lost Istanbul work could be traced to the photographer’s frustration with the loss of Istanbul’s aesthetic.  As the migration from Anatolian towns continue, the concrete jungle expands.  He states that the younger generation that live in the city are not aware the poetic or romantic aspect of the city.

He uses the banks of the Bosphorus often, the stretch of sea that separates Asia Minor from Europe, to use as a metaphor for separation.  The sea is what distances us from others as well as ourselves.  In his photograph Saying good-bye on the Galata quay taken in 1955,a woman with a headscarf is reaching towards the man inside the boat.  The framing makes use of the geometric shapes formed by the horizontal lines along the metallic ship and the vertical as well as slanting lines formed by ropes attaching to a pulley.  I initially assumed that the man and the woman were a couple and they were reaching out to each other to say good-bye one last time until the unforeseeable future.  Due to the fact that the ship is white in colour, it is not very obvious that the man is reaching towards a folded piece of paper that the woman is passing to him.  This changes the story of the photograph as we are left wondering what is written in that folded piece of paper.  Is it her feelings that she could not share with him?  Is it a letter from someone that he refuses to see in person or someone that just couldn’t be there?

Güler states that photography is not art although he accepts that masters such as Ansel Adams or Henri Cartier-Bresson have visual education, this does not make them artists.  He believes “photography is reality above all else” and that it is his job to record what he sees.  To him, the dark room tricks are not acceptable as he hates the idea of becoming an artist.

Güler has a list of qualities to describe what makes a good photographer; “A photographer must be well equipped…  They need to know painting, know music, understand theatre, read a lot, decide in an instant and all in all be very intelligent”.  Whilst I would strive to possess all these qualities he describes, I do see myself as an artist and as a photographer I feel that I have to show my own reality.  Perhaps all artists are journalists since they share their version of ideas, concepts and occurrences.

Puppy Between Feet

I have seen this photograph in Paris Photo fair as part of London-based Michael Hoppen Gallerys exhibition.  The photograph really stood out as it was placed next to the Chloe Sells‘ uber-vibrant mixed media prints.  The highly contrasting and rough feeling black and white print stood tall amongst the colourful haze of the gallery.

The scene consists of two rough feet resting on top of soft furnishings.  The feet are touching along the heels and parted along the toes to allow a hand and the head of a small puppy through.

The head of the puppy is so small that it is not immediately recognisable. The composition is formed to resemble childbirth and there is little contrast of tone between the hand and the head. The detail that really stands out for me is the contrast of the dog’s head to the feet and hand.  The newborn is smooth, has closed eyes and symbolises; innocence, the untainted and naivety.  The feet and hand that surround it resemble a human pelvis, a broken, aged and infertile pelvis.

Roger Ballen is an American photographer that lived in South Africa since the 70’s.  He is well known for his work in the fringes of  the society.  He was both celebrated and criticized for photographing the post-apartheid whites that were left in poverty.  He is also well recognised for the first music video he directed- “I fink u freaky” by the Die Antwoord, which also featured heavy contrasting black and white scenes.Puppy between Feet, 1999