When the 25-year-old Francophile philosophy graduate Melike Koçak (portrait above by Monica Fritz) decided to dedicate her life to photography, she was unwittingly joining a new wave of young Istanbul photographers. Her work has already been widely exhibited. This year she was selected to become an ARTPIL 30-Under-30 Woman Photographer and she was also accepted by Kadir Has Universiity for its Master Program in Design/Art. Her work has profundity beyond her years, with the spiritual and intellectual depth of Japanese photography clearly a source of inspiration.
Speaking of a recent project, Koçak told me: ‘When sleeping, we live through an incredible world of desire and then we wake up and just go to work as though nothing had happened. It's a major disconnection. I wanted to create my own bonds with my own dreams without reading Freud or going to a fortune teller. I wanted to focus on the aesthetic and the nature of dreams, using my memory and imagination. I wondered how to do that and I felt photography could be the best tool.'
'Photography enables you to think about things that are extracted from linear space and time. The Japanese photographers understood this power of photography.'
'I am more interested in the experience than the narrative.'
Koçak continues: 'The philosopher Walter Benjamin believed the halo created in 19th-century photographic portraiture from long exposures was actually the soul of the subject. I agree with this.
'The stillness of a photographic image forces you to understand it and it makes you more conscious of the dream. It stops you from turning it into a narrative and allows you to feel it as it was. I'm reading a lot of Gaston Bachelard, he is obsessed with natural elements and imagery of substance. I really like him and Carl Jung.'
Koçak outlined for me the new artistic movements in Turkish photography. or, as she corrected herself, to 'moments' in Turkish photography, dividing them into three categories: the first being 'Documentary photography with a contemporary vision' or 'creative storytelling'. The issues documented in the photos are ones that affect the photographer personally. There is an intentional consciousness in this regard. The photographers Cansu Yıldıran and Oğulcan Arslan are examples.
Photographs by Oğulcan Arslan, 2022
The second movement Koçak considered the most interesting 'socially speaking'. It's an ironic view of Turkish culture, its street life, the people and a humorous perspective of Turkish aesthetics. 'it's a very strong movement'. Some examples are Erdem Varol, who is in the spotlight now and has a distinct use of colour, Batuhan Keskiner and CiDemi, whose work is very interesting – he tells a unique series of stories through photos, and been very sought after by the foreign art press lately and did an interview on TRT a few days ago.
CiDemi's 'I won't be upset if you forget me'. 2019
The third movment, according to Kocak, is completely different from the others. It's conceptual portraiture and abstract images. For example, they can be darkroom experiments or collages.Two photographers that fall into this catagory in Turkey are Umut Erbaş and the Turkish-born Iranian Sayna Soleimanpour.
Melike Koçak's work along with 10 other artists are now showing in a Pop-up exhibition in Cihangir open till (roughly) end of October. Shopi Go Art Tavern Hayriye cad.16 Beyoglu. Tuesday - Sunday 5 pm - 2 am