Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On Normalization of Abnormal


One of the things these protests, and the photography itself in general,  taught me was that strange stuff gets pretty old pretty quickly. Things I would normally find odd became normal as days passed, and as I saw them through my lens. I was walking around with swimming goggles, a medical mask and a big scarf for extra support on facial coverage. Pretty much most everyone around was like me. And then there were the ones with Vendetta masks. People finding furniture to burn in the middle of streets... People who walk around with a sprayer filled with some stomach medicine and milk mixture, offering help to burning eyes after pepper sprayed... The cops... Everywhere.. Intimidating.. Gas canisters.. Water being sprayed on anything and everything... People walking arm in arm to resist... So many of this had just became an everyday occurrence all of a sudden. And that's what I wanted to show you today with some pictures I had.

 





Tuesday, December 3, 2013

On Photographing Protests


I shot this about six months ago in downtown Ankara. It was only two weeks after I had gotten back home. This was my first visit in four years. One hell of a start I had.


All this had started as some small protest by an environmental group against the government that wanted to cut quite a few trees at one of the last few green areas in the heart of Istanbul. After the harsh response from the police force, everything quickly turned into a country wide anti-government riot, which lasted about a month. This is basically the sum of what was going on. There are quite a few articles written on those or on following days for further reading.

It was a shock to me. I had barely gotten over the jetlag by the time I found myself running around with my camera. This was the first time I was in such a situation as a photojournalist.

For quite a few of us, photojournalists, the thrill of this job, the adrenaline, is one of the major motives that keep us going. And there I was in the middle of it.

I shot this photograph on the first day of Ankara protests. Not sure why, but I had decided it would be better if I tag along with the protestors, who were simply throwing pieces of rocks at the cops, who were obviously armed. It was probably the mantra "the closer the better" that is buried in my photographer mind that kept me right next to these guys. Plus the cops were quite intimidating to approach and I did not know any other journalists here at the time.

The first day was interesting especially because of one specific inner battle I had. Quite a few times, i had found myself chanting along with the protestors. Because this was just not some country that I had landed to take pictures. What was being protested was and is deeply affecting my life, as well. I was as frustrated as anyone there.


By the end of the first day, I managed to put my journalist hat on, leaving my citizen persona aside. What was going on was important for me as a journalist, for me as Pinar from Turkey and for everyone who lives in this country. So I had to document it.

This man was screaming at the officer that this was not Israel. This was Ankara. He had the right to express himself. A basic human right, freedom of speech... Alas this is also Turkey. Freedom of speech, freedom of press... Don't even know what to say about those.


This man was carried to an ambulance after being hit by a pepper gas canister on his face. When this happened, I was right by the police officer who fired at him. This man was at one end of a short street and the police force was on the other end. I recall seeing him raising his hands, showing that he was not armed and asking the police not to shoot. Then he fell. Then the officer, who took aim at him, turned around and said "I did it!" With joy... I was petrified with what I had just witnessed. I keep replaying this moment in my head and trying to make sense of it. But I don't know if I will ever be able to fathom such human cruelty.



Looking back now, it all seems like a dream that lasted more than anyone in it wished for. Considering the current political atmosphere here, it is hard to tell what these protests led to. It is even harder when you are not necessarily the outsider of such circumstances.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Golden Hour


Just wanted to share this shot from my last shoot. It is one of my favorites from that take. Photo Gods were shining the good light upon me that day.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Birth and Storytelling

 
Since I got back, I have been shooting some births. I had done it before going to journalism school. But upon my return after all that training and professional experience, my take on the whole thing inevitably has changed.

This is not a journalistic assignment. There are certain shots I am expected to provide. When you shoot a bunch of them in a short period of time, this whole process becomes pretty mechanical, almost making one numb to the idea of a new person coming into life. I try to remind myself how important what I witness is and how luck I am to be there and document it.

I also keep asking myself how to better tell their stories. Every time being a new opportunity to practice this particular kind of storytelling, I am trying to find better frames, better light, dig out more intimate stories.

I quite enjoy this particular photograph. It depicts a young couple who just birthed their first child into this wild world. It might not be the most original frame, but it does tell the story of these three people, their immediate connection, the strong bond being formed among them. There is an emotional moment that this new mother  is intensely experiencing. The father is trying to document it from his own perspective while trying to be there for this life changing moment itself. It is a storytelling photograph. That's what is important. Rest is the details.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nur

Nur, originally an Arabic word, means light.

 
Meet my friend Nur. We have been trying to do this photo shoot for years. Finally, yesterday we were both in the same city and the weather finally was on our side.

As if it was a thank to her name, the light was gorgeous at yesterday's sunset. We got to chase the light around Lake Eymir for about an hour and it was quite fun.

 
She is definitely a brunette beauty, who enjoys modeling quite a bit. It makes it easier my job, when the person loves being in front of my lens.


The lake, over all the nature itself really, was generous to us. We ran into that little guy on the right and he was probably the most friendly stray cat I have ever met.

This was an unusual experience for me as a photographer. Although I have done portrait sessions quite a few times before, this was different in terms of planning of the location, time, clothing items etc. I enjoyed the process as much as I did the shoot itself.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On Photographing Strangers: Part V


Coming from a photojournalistic background, I tend to speak to the people I photograph. Otherwise it makes me feel like I objectify the people, I disrespect them by not acknowledging them.

This photo was an exception. It was pretty much a sneaky shot, as I snapped this one single frame, passing by the family. Hoping that I got the shot... It is not exactly what I had foreseen but it is something. I didn't wanna bother this little family while the parents were practicing their morning yoga, assisting one another and the little girl was running around and swimming inside  a small tide pool. I felt like if I asked for permission, I would lose the moment or their concentration on just being and living there at that moment.

I could probably talk to them afterwards but they were just so immersed in basically being a family, I just didn't wanna bother them.



Looking back, it still seems pretty surreal to me that I lived and worked in a surf town in Costa Rica.

I shot this on a surf contest day. I feel like in the crowd and craziness of the day, I found some quietness and solitude with this picture.



Another shot I didn't let the subject know about, rather didn't wanna bother him with it. He was just checking the surf. If I were him, I would hate to be distracted.

This is the last post from these hold series. Hope y'all enjoyed looking at the pictures.

Monday, November 18, 2013

On Passion of Religion and Photographs: Part IV



Last year, while working for the Voice of Guanacaste, I worked on photographing several services during the Holy Week (Semana Santa). One was the Passion of Christ walk. I had a second camera on me where I snapped a few pictures for my personal memories.

I find this shot haunting. This one was shot under the same light with the following image within the same roll of film. Yet this one turned out to have a completely different visual language to it. This one looks completely surreal to me. It is startling yet I am totally drawn to it. It is like the religion itself. It is blurry, seductive and inviting for explorations, yet it has to be within certain limits. You have to accept the givens while you are trying yo interpret it for yourself. You have to accept that this is a black and white photograph, that shows a small fragment of a bigger picture within the limitations of this one specific frame. Yet there is so much to see in it.




This one's aura is more prisoning than the one above. It is a technically clearer image. The effects on the side that was caused by lens captures the viewer and holds it inside a circle. With the angle, it feels like there are guardians standing upon us, staring  upon us to make sure we are still with them. I would say this one is a lot more controlling. 

There was a tragicomical occurrence toward the end of this service. Carlos Montiel, who was acting as  Jesus, had to stop his performance earlier than expected due to health issues he had started having. Under the heat of late morning being hung off of a cross caused him lose his mobility. He was hospitalized during the reenactment of the crucification.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

On Ways of Being Ocean: Part III

Or rather I should say states of being ocean. I noticed a pattern, an almost consistent one, about these set of photographs. Every now and then, I apparently turned to the ocean, itself. The moving water, the vast body of water was minimized to fill my frames. The way I photographed the ocean is like the way ocean moves. Reoccuring and predictable in some ways, yet there is still plenty of room for diversity in images, in the ways ocean leaves marks on the sand or in the ways she choose behave. 

 





This one is my favorite of all. I sort of see myself in it.



It is fascinating how it becomes a reflector  and a light source as the water  goes back home.

Thanks for looking!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

On Film and Life : Part II

Today, I got to witness another birth of a child. It was because of photography. It was with the help of photography. A baby girl was born into this wild world. Having this opportunity, kind of, mesmerizes me. I'm incredibly lucky to be there with my camera as parents welcome their new child, as a new human being takes his/her first breaths out of the comfort of the womb. 

I am pretty grateful for all this. But there is a downside to it, which I would have to admit. I am a young woman who has not had a child yet. When I first started photographing these births, it was dizzying for me to be in that room, watch mothers go through this probably the most profound experience that a woman can have. Especially when it came to C-sections, that's when things got even more fascinating.  Today though, I came to a realization about photography and my camera. As much as it opens countless doors for me in unimaginable situations, it does one more thing for me. It normalizes things and situations that would normally be otherwise. Births, especially C-sections, can get gory sometimes. But as soon as I put the camera on my face, it all becomes more distant. It is like I am removed from that situation that my camera put me in. I sort of become numb to what is happening before my eyes. 


On the other hand photography makes the distant near. Like this picture... 

It was shot on a warm Costa Rica morning, while walking on the beach. I had just wanted to document and remind myself this wild piece of nature. Behind, there was the ocean, rejoicing the shore with every breaking wave. Looking at this photograph, I can almost feel the sand on my feet, the breeze on my skin and I can almost hear the water. 
This frame had one of the best exposure out of the rolls I developed, which makes it a bit more tactile. And thus more near...

If I were there right now, I would probably try to walk into the moil of the branches and find a spot to sit down and do people watching. 


And if I made it far back enough,  this lush would be part of my view.

On the top-right portion of this frame there is a thin white mark, that was basically a piece of hair on the scanner that made its way to the final scan. I tried to fix it several times, but didn't end up with any satisfying result. Normally, I would spend hours trying to fix that. But this time, I am leaving it as it is. This is not a professional image I made for a client or a publication. It is completely personal and it is OK to be imperfect like this. It is okay to make this image more vulnerable to questions or criticism  and same goes for me as a photographer. It is okay.




This was the main road that went down to the main entrance of the beach in Playa Guiones, where I lived in Costa Rica. Most of the business were located on this road. So was my (home) office. It was on the left, right after that second SUV.  It took me less than 10 minutes to get to the beach under normal circumstances. A lot of people would find it pretty ideal. And it was for me, as well. For a while. But some things get old pretty fast for various reasons.

 

This, I believe, was the bus station in Liberia. It was the nearest big city for me. It was a frequent stop, since I was having to leave the country to renew my visa. Liberia is about two hours from the Nicaraguan border. Costa Rica side of the ride wasn't as pleasant of a view as it was once I crossed the border. You would see windmills and a lake along with the farm lands and small neighborhoods in Nicaragua. It always felt more real there.




And here comes my lady, Guadalupe. She just makes me feel so peaceful. I have no recollections of the moment or the place I made this picture. But I am glad I did. She is such a lovely lady.

Thanks for looking!


Friday, November 15, 2013

On Film, Vulnerability and Fear : Part I

Normally, I don't do much talking with the pictures I post, especially not as freely/openly as I did this time. Not sure what made me this articulate tonight but lately I have been pondering a lot about vulnerability and fear within photographic contexts. 

Photography is an experience. For all of us... For me, as the picture maker, for you as the audience and for the persons who are in the photographs... What vulnerability and fear carry is experienced by all of us. We all get exposed to them one way or another. They both have negative connotations yet there is some goodness to them, as well. 

I think, from time to time, it is okay to be vulnerable. It somehow takes pressure off the shoulders. By writing here today, I feel like I am testing my waters for my vulnerability. I am writing things here that I would normally journal about. I am exposing myself. It makes me nervous yet it makes me more human. And it is okay. 

It is like taking pictures on film. Using film makes a photographer a lot more vulnerable. We don't have the chance to see whether we have  the shot we are after or not. Shooting on film, you just gotta rely on your technical knowledge, instincts and luck. Chances are you might not get it and you won't know until after all is over. 

And fear... That fear... It can drag you down yet it can raise you up to wherever you wanna reach. It is a  dangerous one. Gotta have some of it but not too much. A thin line to keep the balance on...

Writing these, I think, is giving me the opportunity to experience my fear of vulnerability. And turns out it is not too bad.


I am a relatively young photographer, both in age and definitely in experience. I might be part of one of those last few generations whose first encounter with photography was through the dark room, the film photography, the chemicals... I recall my anxiety mixed with fascination as I was waiting for my rolls to develop or for my test strips to appear the pictures years ago. It was and is one of the best experiences of my life. 

Back then, I had saved up and bought a Nikon N80 for that dark room class and used it quite frequently for the few following years after that amazing class. When I needed to get a good digital body, I had to sell it. And pretty much since then, I hadn't gone back in the darkroom. But this past week, my awesome friends from KA Photo Workshop  let me use their darkroom and film scanners. So I got to develop some rolls from the good ol' Holga that I had apparently been shooting on since last fall.

It was interesting to hold each strip of negative onto the light and see what was revealed in these private  and quiet squares. It was almost like going through a time machine where I could stop wherever I want at any given time and spend as much time as I want at that point in life.

Film photography has a strange aura to it. Aside from its overall nostalgia and obscurity, there is something about it that makes me really sad and I am having a hard time pinpointing what that is. I wanna say it is the tactility, the texture and the depth of space and colors in it. But not quite sure if these are sufficient to figure out what I am looking for.

So these are four "people" pictures from the five rolls that took me back to the dark room. I will be posting more photographs in the coming days with couple of different themes. But I wanted to start with these. These were the first several pictures that grabbed my attention when I looked at the negatives. For me, it is the people that makes it easier to connect with  images. It is the people that makes a photograph unforgettable. It is what I, as the photographer, experienced with them. And it is what the audience can relate to in these people.



So this is my friend, Han. It is one of the three oldest pictures from these five rolls. I believe it was last September. He was in town for a few days, before he took off to Wyoming for his new job. 

We had gone on a short hike before heading out to my favorite bar at the time, Lucy's in McBaine, Mo. 

It was good day. We had talked about our past trips, school, his new job, the dreams we each had. We had reflected on how crazy life had been for each one of us. 


This couple... Lisa and Gabriel. I met them on a bus ride from Nosara to Samara, while on assignment on those towns back in Costa Rica. I believe they are from NYC. Lisa is a hair stylist and Gabriel, if I  remember correctly, was managing a bar and had a band called The Stationary Set. They had rented a room at an artist's house in Samara and making day trips to nearby towns during that trip. 

The reason why we started talking in the first place was because of the cameras we had. Gabriel was making pictures of Lisa with an old Polaroid (the kind that spits out the pictures right away :)). And I had the plastic Holga around my neck. Gabriel had said they make pictures of each other with that Polaroid on their trips and gather their memories like that. It made me happy. It made me smile. 


I always think (and express it quite frequently) that everything happens for a reason. It usually takes some time for one to see that "reason" but I think today's coincidences become tomorrow's interconnected chain of events that lead us to one place or another in life. 

These were my neighbors from Nosara, Corey and Mike. A day after I met them, I decided to move back to Turkey. So we only got to hang out for three weeks. I don't think I could have asked for any better neighbors than them at that point. 

Corey was teaching English at an institute in town and waiting to go back to the States to meet up with his girlfriend, Liz in less than two months. And Mike, a definitely free-spirit, had no itinerary for his travels whatsoever and I believe he still doesn't. He had retired and started traveling around the warm tropics, learning Spanish and basically enjoying his life. 

As I mentioned above, everything happens for a reason. I believe the universe brought us all together at a time when I was going through some difficulties. The presence of these two incredible spirits definitely helped me put things in perspective, and at the very least, distracted me from getting stuck in my own head. 

I made this photograph on a Sunday afternoon. We had gone to the beach for sunset and some swimming. Mike and I had gotten to enjoy the ocean but Corey was dealing with some brutal toe injury. So he was mostly busy making pictures, collecting his memories. Once the sunset hit, though, we all grabbed the cameras. I couldn't help but take a few steps back and capture this moment. 


And finally, this is Todd. He was and always will be a special person for me. To me, there is one word that summed up our relationship. Intimacy that was. 

Thanks for looking. There will be more pictures and talking coming in the next days. 








About Me

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Ankara , Turkey
I am a photographer and photo editor based in Ankara, Turkey. See more of my work here: http://pinaristek.virb.com/

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