Gözde ‘Mimiko’ Türkkan
Strange & Beautiful
How would you characterise your philosophy regarding photography and approach to storytelling?
For more than fifteen years photography has been the medium through which I have been exploring myself, digging out my fears, desires, intentions and concerns. On a broader level, I’m very interested in human nature and all of its manifestations and representations. I aim to make the viewer aware of stereotypes and make them ask questions that they had never asked before, make them question their preconceptions about socially constructed identities and other structures. I’m also inspired by opportunities to uncover any hidden, unconscious motives, and link visible behaviours to those hidden or unconscious reasons.
Along with my MA Fine Art studies at Central Saint Martins, I have developed a certain approach of researching, elaborating and producing which consists of roughly three consecutive stages: research, visual production and selection & editing.
I constantly take notes of visual and written data that I come across in my daily life regarding the topics I am interested in. At some point, some ideas agglomerate. Then I know what to work on for my next project and this is also the beginning of an intense visual and written research period. In that sense I usually read a lot from interdisciplinary sources from different periods like gender studies, anthropology, sociology, biology, philosophy... That is a great source of inspiration as well as being able to observe people and link them. Next comes the shooting phase and finally the selection and editing. These stages are of course not always consecutive but also simultaneous.
This production pattern allows me to create a pre-narrative out of the research and then adapt this approach to what the actual shooting environment offers, as I usually shoot in a state of “controlled carelessness”. It’s like leaving things to their natural order and flow, while being informed of its likely and unlikely potentials, or like trying to discover things from a certain pre-researched point of view, making room for observation and chance, fate, the flow of things, whatever we might call it.
Finally, I believe the act of taking and displaying photographs is in most cases similar to laying out the dirty laundry. In Japanese photographer Araki’s words: “Well, it’s a tricky occupation. After all, what you’re doing is betraying people by releasing the shutter. You really are. It’s not all like this, but this certainly is one side of the photographer’s job.” I am driven by the will to use this power of representation carefully and revert this hierarchy by laying out my own dirty laundry at the same time.
What did you gain from Strange & Beautiful, and how has your relationship with the subject(s) changed over time?
As with most of my works, Strange & Beautiful is the form my self-expression takes when I don’t know a better way to express my feelings. It suits me better than words and acts as a crucial communication channel. My series represents things I can’t put into words; and sometimes things I consciously choose not to put into words. Sometimes I find it difficult to even express my affection or love… Had I not acted on an urge to channelise the “accumulation” of emotions that has been driving the realisation of the Strange & Beautiful series, I’d be stuck, dull, even more introverted, distant and self-destructing in my relationships. Same goes for most of my series. And now that I think of it, the piece of writing in Strange & Beautiful was possible only because the emotional knot had been coming loose thanks to the act of taking the images, which preceded the writing.
As for our relationship’s continuum, as it kind of relieved me from the burden of my congested emotions, whether a burst of affection or an old-time ache, it also eased our co-existence. We haven’t really sat down and talked about this series, but I believe it silently moved something inside each of us.
The images are solitary and poignant, was this a conscious approach?
No, I don’t really make conscious choices regarding the emotions I want to convey before shooting, I mean the process is so instinctual that I choose not to vision a pre-decided emotional approach. I like to just let it happen and navigate the flow, which means that either I must have felt that way (and so I projected my own feelings onto the situation, or I was impregnated by the dominant vibe (like an introjection)). Or even better I may have been in confluence.
On the other hand, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that solitude is my underlying emotion in whatever. Not necessarily on a painful or melancholic note, but just as it is.
You talk about the female gaze in relation to your practice. Could you tell us about your experiences with the female gaze regarding Strange and Beautiful?
I first used the term “female gaze” when I wrote a statement about my BA graduation project which was, among other things, a reaction to being suffocated by the male gaze. I wanted to reclaim my own perception; how I perceived myself and how I wanted to be perceived as a female. I also attempted to reverse the socially constructed gender roles dichotomy — the notorious “subject-active-male & object-passive-female”.
In other words, my gaze is active, detached, curious and investigative while operating within the endless possibilities that the social, physiological and gender identities present. In that sense, this gaze is present in whatever I do and wherever I look. For instance, I believe I have an unconscious tendency to apprehend the nuances about my sister’s growth in regards to these identities. Nevertheless, it is less dominant in Strange & Beautiful than most of my works as the main concern here is not about confronting the viewer with socially constructed stereotypes and preconceptions. I am just there, letting life happen and capturing a slice of it along with her.
These photographs were taken of family members, we know this is a private domain. What memories about the project still evoke emotions that you have not discussed before, and do you find any difficulty in revisiting the project?
The decision to act on the urge to take photos of my sister, our father and my sister’s mother (and our web of relationship of course) on a regular basis was an action that communicated the care and affection on my behalf, whatever had happened in our past. I believe this intention was also perceived and felt by them. Thinking about it now, I think the will to close in the distance was initially externalised by my sister and I responded to it — in my own way. At first, the act of taking photos was my mediator and facilitator in order to communicate with more ease, which later became an act of its own, like documenting our present, our growth, our path. In this sense (and as an on-going series rather than a project), Strange & Beautiful is a construction belonging to the present and the future, and that is a source of satisfaction.
On the other hand, I’ve been having different concerns, especially during the editing/selection process about how my sister perceives herself, how much she likes herself perceived by me. I know she enjoys the series in general, but questions like “Will she like how she looks on a particular photo? or “Will she mind revealing certain aspects about herself?” are always on my mind when I go through recently taken photos.
Are there any photographers you’d like to work with in the future and what plans do you have for 2017?
I have had a strong penchant for Japanese culture since childhood. I have been there twice for a short time relatively recently. There are already a couple of ideas or “leads” I’d like to develop into visual narratives — which means the ideas have already agglomerated, I’ve already went through the first research stage of my working process that I mentioned before. During this process there were times I had imagined making a “tandem” work with a Japanese photographer, like an “exchange” project where we would host each other for our respective projects about each other’s countries society. I actually met two Japanese photographers I thought about sharing this idea with, but I had to prioritise other projects.