Murathan Özbek who generally deals with time, past, absence, loneliness and subconscious, will take a journey towards the inner world of human in ‘Black and White’ exhibition. The artist observes his models along with their personal moods and characters then reflects the feeling of abstraction by embodying them in his photography. Özbek integrates his models with the enchanting atmosphere of nature of different spaces. In his photographs where his director’s identity can be traced, Özbek reaches new metaphors by his use of space, light and contrast and mirrors chaotic moods of humans and thus opens a gateway from his models’ dream world to the viewer’s.
MELİS GOLAR : Up to now the exhibitions you have opened, have dealt with basic feelings and moments about human beings. You have deciphered the feeling of absence of time with ‘Once’ exhibition, with the exhibition ‘In’, you have deciphered the inside of the shell that the people have sealed up to the outer world. Can you mention more about your 4th solo exhibition ‘Black and White’ and your first exhibition at Gallery Siyah Beyaz?
MURATHAN ÖZBEK : ‘Black and White’ is actually a portrait series that people do not drawn close to. Each photo resembles a mood that people in that picture. When we look around, we encounter something that water, meadow or a mountain tells us. I make use of where the light comes from, where the roads end, the tranquility of the forests that those can play a role in telling us something or a place. I mean in short what I benefit from is that the things in the world turn into a metaphor and provide a ground for me to narrate people. The main sources of my cinema and photography adventure can be traced in this exhibition.
M.G. : I see that your director identity has steered you towards the staged photography. In an interview you said ‘Staged photography may be a search to see the the world within yourself.’ Is photography a practice that has also made its way into your daily life? Or do you photograph moments only with your memory?
M.Ö. : When I first started taking photographs, I was after a more specific genre in order to to express what I was trying to do. I was distinguishing the act of taking photographs as either “staged” or “documentary”. Nowadays I don’t feel the need for such clear cut distinctions. A photograph that I’ve taken of a person whom I’ve known well in my life and with whom I’ve spent a long time, a person whom I’ve watched or listened to, may not be staged in terms of the meaning; however, if you look at the floor or the sets that I’ve prepared in order to take that photograph, the process becomes one that is staged. I’m interested in the reality that photographs convey; I try to do as poetry or novels do, but with photographs. That’s where my adventures in cinema overlaps with photography. I gather the necessary materials to tell something. In that context, documentary photography and what I define as “staged” are really similar. And photography is a very powerful means of showing things. When a person take a photo of herself with a happy gesture while being unhappy, isn’t is a staged photography as well? Today, perhaps is a golden age for staged photography..
M.G. : Your focus on staging places and locations are always in the forefront in your Black and White photographs. In this exhibition, we see a series where you’ve portrayed people by matching the scenes of nature and isolated places. Can you mention about your adventures on the journeys and your discovery of the places in your photography?
M.Ö. : Location is the foundation of photography. I mean, in a story, the narrative may start without designating the location. In photography, the subject is inseparable from the location; and sometimes it becomes the subject itself. When I think about this exhibition and my other similar works, I see that the locations are like the backbone of the characters I portray. Sometimes a location is the character itself. I’m always searching for new discoveries and journeys. Every river runs differently.
M.G. : In your previous works, your color and light choices were quite striking. This series gives references to the inner world of your models and it also appears in black and white. How did the black and white selection emerge?
M.Ö. : The title ‘Black and White’ isn’t simply because the photographs in the exhibition are in black and white. This is my first solo show at Gallery Siyah Beyaz and I’m dedicating it to the founder, Faruk Sade. It stands both as a new venture in my life and as an homage to this family of which I am a member. As for the colors, for whatever reason sometimes I feel the need to reduce the number of things which are too many of in my life. I’ve recently shot a very colorful movie. It’s all colorful in that film; so now I took the colors out of the photographs. Because there are no colors, the photos are purified from any metaphorical narratives that those colors would have created. We’ve only got the character and the location. Whatever they tell us is the fact.
M.G. : You’ve recently completed a short film called ‘ The Museum of Ended Loves’. The models who appear in this movie and your previous work, show up in this exhibition. You somehow continue the observations you’ve made on your models and convey them through your works. In that sense your discoveries over models and locations are not coincidental. How would you comment on this psychological aspect of your work?
M.Ö. : Let’s consider the notion of ‘casting’ in cinema. You look for someone who suits the character you’ve written in terms of look and talent. What I do in photography is not ‘casting’ in that sense. In my work I approach people who are familiar, who’ve left their marks on me; people with whom I share some intimacy, people to whom I’ve directed certain questions in life. Actually, through them, I get closer to myself. And I also know that people who are far away aren’t more interesting than those who are close by. Because every person gets deeper depending on how much you look at them. They become grander the more you look at them. And perhaps there’s a powerful side to me to expresmyself in photography through the people around me. So, I don’t photograph them in one day; the images emerge under the effects of a long period of time. Discovering things together is one of the most prominent things in life for me. Searching together, questioning together, finding together. This connection between my life and my works are almost like the backbone of my production.
M.G. : Cinema and photography are two branches that feed one another. In what ways do these two planes converge and separate for you?
M.Ö. : I’ve only recently begun observing the connection between my films and my photography. Though perhaps talking about ‘my movies’ at this point may be difficult; but I’m discovering my own language. With this first movie with which I’ve started my search I can also see what I’ve carried over from photography. It’s been whole different to understand through my own experiences. Ultimately, everyone has their own maps that they themselves chart out. And not every director starts making movies by taking photographs.And for every director who has taken up photography and cinema as their main forms of expression will have a different connection between the two. I thought of the most fundamental difference between photography and cinema. Photography itself is a whole but in cinema it is simply one of the pieces that make up the whole. The art of creating a cinematic flow differs critically from photography in that regard. Sometimes I encounter this thought that a good photographer is a good filmmaker. I disagree on this idea.
M.G. : We’re in an era where all techniques in photography are being pushed to their limits. Dimensions are one of these categories that could be considered as important. How significant do you think are the dimensions of the paper in terms of reflecting your expression?
M.Ö. : Obviously the dimensions of the paper are one of the factors that impact the power of the photograph. Because the size at which you view the photograph on a gallery wall impacts your relationship with that photograph. But this is a matter of presentation. I never consider the size of the paper at the end while taking the photograph. That is the next stage for me.
M.G. : Are there any developments both in our country or from around the world, that you feel as controversial as negative or one that you find as an improvement, as positive, in terms of art politics? Why do you think that these situations transpiring in these days? Where does Turkey stand in terms of your example?
M.Ö. : It’s hard to talk about any goals in terms of progressive art policies in Turkey, let alone the policies themselves. The societal value of art also affects the support that the artists receive; because it’s the society that supports the artists the most. In Turkey, art is in the list of “expendables”. I mean it is, for the most. It’s hard to form a collective consciousness outside any individual efforts in a society where being an artist is not considered as a profession. It’s not a matter of the number of artists, either; it simply has to do with how much the society cares about art. Art institutions have a great responsibility in this regard but they also often come across great obstacles. Anyway, despite everything we must continue to create. No matter what, incessantly.