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What Does Photography Mean to Me?

Ara Guler

© Hakan Dilman 2018

What Does Photography Mean to Me?


My Father, me and photos

I remember when I had just started primary school: My father carefully kept the photographs in a beautiful wooden box, never letting anyone touch them. They were very precious to him, as precious as his little radio-tape player. We couldn’t look at or touch those photos without permission just like we couldn’t press the play button on the radio-tape player.  


My father, me and photo

From time to time, my father would take out that box of photographs from its hiding place like a sacred book of secret worship. He would open the box with great care and handle each photograph as slowly and gently as he could, as if any sudden or rapid movement would disrupt this secret ritual of worship, the magic would be lost, the memories would fade away.  While showing me the photographs, he would read them to me with intense emotion, down to the smallest detail in the photograph. Those moments remained in my child mind like a book recital with talismanic words, and they were the most beautiful and meaningful moments I shared with my father. 


The thing is, I met photography thanks to my father. When my father passed away at the age of 54, I kissed him with tenderness and sent him off to his last journey, as he did to his photographs. There are no photographs of that moment.All that remains are the emotions and the photo of my father with his beautiful blue closed eyes, engraved in my brain, which no one but me will ever see and which will disappear with me.





Ara GÜLER would be the turning point of my life

When I look back on it today, the moment I realized that it was a turning point for me was when I saw Ara Güler’s photograph “Children in Tophane (1987)” taken in Istanbul. In this photograph, there is the confidence, enthusiasm and joy of the hopeful children of an old, old and sad neighborhood. In other words, all the emotions of all the children in that frame individually met in Ara Güler’s lens and a magnificent moment turned into a photograph. Unwittingly, I started a photography journey that would slowly progress from that day on…




Béla Tarr’s influence: black and white photography

The image plans of Béla Tarr’s films, which show time and space without fragmentation, have influenced me a lot in photography. Tarr films reality as it is presented before his eyes. He mostly uses black and white format in his films. He tries to depict the human psyche, inward rather than outward.  In that sense, the movies I watched gave me a different perspective: Realism, time, natural flow! Maybe all this made me turn more towards black and white photography. Tarr said of black and white film, “…you can keep more distance between the film and reality, which is important”.  






Photography refers to eternity 

If photography and film are two recording tools of reality, I touch life through my photographs, because there is no need for “likeness” anymore, it is a trace and it is there. To keep reality alive in photography in order to protect it from the usual decline/degradation! Unlike cinema, photography refers to an infinity that does not flow, does not turn, does not transform, does not begin or end. To find “poetry” in realism not in the process of “transforming” the existing, but in the process of reflecting it!Photography also gives value to my life in terms of touching life in every way.





What Does Photography Mean to Me?

How is life going, what is happening…? On the other side of the window that opens to the world and life, I try to understand what is going on through my own lens and by opening the doors of my inner world wide open, to touch life with my photographs in different generations, different times, geographies and different worlds, to tear pieces from it, to communicate and to respond with aesthetic concerns. 


And of course, I am concerned with creating photographs that others will read as my father read to me. It is important to offer the deepest meaning through the concepts of “subject”, “aesthetics” and “humanism” in order to provide an in-depth look at life. I invite you to explore my world with the photographs I produce in the light of these concerns.



Stories beat facts. When do facts beat stories?

Photography for me is not firstly looking, but feeling, and it’s a way of capturing, witnessing to world! It means a lot to me like a place to share experiences, feelings and stories in the world we live in. 


But the issue: Stories beat facts. When do facts beat stories?


Of course, as long as photographs are not used as a means of manipulation and propaganda in the ethical context, which is one of the golden rules in photography.


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