Photography Articles

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Interview with “Murat Germen”, Turkish Photographer

Masoud Soheili

Iran, 2007

- Who inspired you to take up photography?

My father, being a city planner and academician, used to take a lot of photos. He did not necessarily encourage me to do photography but he subtly gave his camera to me one day (a Nikon F2 for the very first camera) and I was surely attracted by the entire process.

- Why you had “City Planning” education in the University, the same as your father did?

At the beginning, I thought it was an ideal field to work in. but then I discovered that planning is not done by city planners, but by capital owners, land speculators, bribed municipality members, car factory owners and so on. So I gave up being a city planner, since it was way over my reach. I always fought to be a free mind and to stay as much independent as possible from the main stream.

- Then, why did go to the Photography?

There is much less money and actors involved in photography, as compared to city planning and architecture and therefore more freedom. As I switched to photography, I was able to catch the autonomy I have been seeking for years. When I am assigned a photography task, people usually give me a small brief and let me do my own stuff; they never interfere with what I am doing.

- What was the reason of this change? Your youngness…? Many people do this!

no, not my youngness. I was smart enough to start practicing something that I always loved/will love. Many people in the world do things they do not honestly love / own, this is a pity; our life is not something to waste by the meaningless requirements of the prevalent system.

- Do you have any role models (photographers) that helped shape your style?

I wouldn't call them role models, but I love Andre Kertesz's work for being ahead of its time, I appreciate Bernd & Hilla Becher and Düsseldorf School of Photography for

proving that photography without people can be considered as artwork, David Hockney for creating unique work that is timeless in the history of photography,

Margaret Bourke-White for her amazing esthetics and social awareness, Charles Sheeler for bringing his unique painting approaches to photography, Josef Koudelka for being one of the greatest documentary photographers and also being able to make a major shift to a new photography (Chaos series) in the late years, Michael Wesely to bring a new dimension to the relationship of moment and photography, Gregory Crewdson for proving photography as cinematic language is possible. I am sure there are other names I forgot, but this is what I can think of right now.

- What is the underlying philosophy behind your photographs?

Photography is an opportunity for me to find things that people usually ignore and then bring them to light in order to make people reconsider their ideas on such disregarded matters. I am not very interested in extraordinary things since they are always covered by many people and receive more attention than needed due to mankind's unending and easy interest in celebrities, fame, sensation, etc. I feel like concentrating more on ordinary things and catch any possible latent extraordinary dimensions in regularity.

- Has the photographic arena changed much over the years, especially now in the age of digital?

In old years taking a decent photo with good lighting and focus was enough to make you a master. But now cameras do this automatically for you and masters at this point have the responsibility of thinking about why they create photographic images and share them. Being at the right place in the right time is not enough for creative photography practices anymore, there should be a new dimension to be added by the photographer as artist. Digital imaging, by increasing the number of images taken on earth, will surely help us in speeding this refinement process up.

- What do you see, and what do you think on Black and White Photography?

There is not a particular thing that I am committed to see. But I can say that I sometimes concentrate on extracting beauty out of the ordinary. It is easy to take ordinary photos of extraordinary things but more challenging to take extraordinary photos of ordinary things. I do not have a particular attraction to black and white; I am more a “color” guy. I love looking at B&W photos and producing them also when necessary, but I never think in B&W at the very beginning. if we talk only on the graphical level and forget content for a while, I believe it is more difficult to make a decent color photo as compared to a B&W photo, since B&W mode neutralizes color areas that may otherwise look incompatible in color mode.

- Which factors make your decide to take B&W or Color photography for a project?

I always see and take in color and convert to B&W if I see potential in a particular photo / series. If I have to work in difficult light conditions I may prefer to switch to B&W, since the problem of color shift / cast disappears and noise / grain resulting from low light conditions look more compatible with B&W (and I believe this is sometimes why the documentary photographers work in B&W).

- Which kind of photography is more attractive for you? And on which field you work more?

What I do is somewhere between conceptual photography and urban photography. Some of the stuff I am producing falls into the category of the German Düsseldorf School of photography originally initiated by Bernd & Hilla Becher. I am not very interested in travel / nature / journalism photography as art; I naturally take such photos now and then, but i tend to archive them as stock photography to sell.

- Could you please define the different kinds of photography, as Nature Photography, people, Photojournalism…

Nature photography is like expressionist painting practice to me, you get impressed by what nature gives you and want to share this with others. Even though one has to be a competent photographer to take great nature photos, I do not find the practice very creative: nature creates and you witness... great nature photography was done by people like Ansel Adams, but it is not very much possible to create better photos since the nature does not get better. It actually gets worse since we work hard on destroying it...

People photography is a delicate issue. Sometimes people are included in the photos without thinking much, as if all photos including people must be considered “beautiful.” there are some prejudices about the existence of people in photography. i do not agree with some people’s limited idea of “there is no photography without people.” this is a highly absurd statement, since in a notable percentage of the world’s contemporary photography examples you see no people nowadays. One must understand that photos without people still carry the traces of the people; you do not have to see people in photos in order to perceive the narration of a life. And sometimes, if you do not include people in photos, the audience has more chance of creating their own narratives, since they are not offered enough clues about what is going on: the photo keeps it mystery. Human figures in photos always tend to be too central and may steal the leading role even the subject of your work is not directly humans.

When photojournalism is presented and sold as art, I think it betrays the subjects of the content that it covers. While the problems that are covered by photojournalism still persist and people in photos continue to suffer, the photographers sometimes get awarded or have a drink at the exhibition openings; I find this very unfair and consider it as exploitation. If photojournalism is used as a means of awareness (in various broadcasting platforms) about what is going on in the world then I find it very necessary and sublime.

- What is artistic photography?

The definition of artistic photography depends on one’s definition of art. What is art for some people may not be art for some others. This is why I do not care about my own work being considered as artistic photography, for instance; I call my own creative work as “exhibit work” in order to avoid the time-wasting debates on whether it is artistic or not. Art has many levels of definition, sometimes we tend to say “art of living,” or “state of the art.” the word art in these phrases is not exactly the same thing as “art” to be exhibited.

- What is creative photography?

Creative photography is work that reflects one’s inner world with a genuine and idiosyncratic way.

- What is the relation between creative photography and artistic photography?

Well, it is the same thing again: it depends on one’s definition of art. My personal opinion is creative photography can sometimes be artistic photography and vice versa.

- Do you see yourself taking photos until a ripe old age?

Yes, yes, yes:) There are so many things that can be done that I hope my physical conditions will allow me to do photography until very old ages (Kertesz took some remarkable photos at his 90s).

- Any words of advice for our readers in trying to take photos like yours?

Do not follow the suggested agenda, do your own thing...

- Finally, what is your preferred gear?

I have been using Canon for a long time since Canon has an amazing range of lenses, including the much loved 24mm tilt+shift. The lenses I use the most are 24mm tilt+shift, 75-300mm zoom, 50 mm f/1.4. For people photography I prefer to use a digital compact camera, which happens to be a Canon PowerShot Pro1 at this moment. I am anxiously waiting for a 22-25 MP SLR body and 12 MP compact camera from Canon.