I would just like to say, a sincere thank you to my new friend Elif. You made my first interview with Juxt an inspiring and enjoyable experience.
I hope that you all, the readers, can grasp the passion and kindness of the artist that is Elif Suyabatmaz @fisheyedreams.
D: David E: Elif
D. Elif, please, give us a feel for who you are? Tell us a bit about yourself, your life.
E. My mother is American and my Father is Turkish. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Turkey when I was four. I traveled back and forth in the summers. I am a graphic designer, but after I gave birth to my second child, I lost most of my clients. So, I am trying renurture my creativity by doing some projects. Right now, I am a housewife (laughs). Before I had kids I was working full time, but I wanted to take care of my children myself so I quit everything, and that changed my life. After four and a half years of just focusing on them, I returned to photography. After my second year of graphic design education in Turkey, the classes became more photography and video oriented. I had great teachers, and I was in love with photography at the time. Because of that, after I graduated, I became a stewardess for a year in order to travel and earn a living. That was a wonderful experience. I traveled to Cuba and Yemen and other places to take photographs. Then I came back to Turkey, so I guess that is where everything originated.
D. Can you tell us a little bit more about your origins in photography?
E. My father is an artist. He had a Pentax, and he’d take photographs. He had a little dark room in the house. I wasn’t interested in taking photos at the time, but him being an artist and taking photographs must have influenced me.
D. I find a magical quality in your work with all the shadows and light. You seem to be consistent with new work, how do you do it? Do you shoot every day? It’s almost like you are roaming the streets of Istanbul constantly taking photographs.
E. During the day I take care of my kids, well my son… my daughter is in school. So every Sunday, I take photos from very early morning until four or five in the evening. And every week I try to choose an area in Istanbul that I have not shot before. Or, if I am obsessed with an area I go there again and again, every week. All day I’ll take photographs, and that week, I will try to post two or three photos a day, depending on what I took on Sunday and if the shoot was productive enough. So generally, I take photos once a week, because that’s my only chance to go out. Sometimes on weekdays I go to the city, but that’s quite rare. For the shadows, I really think shadows are a proof of our existence. They give me that feeling of the actual existence of our body. Generally people don’t give importance to their shadows. But light changes everything everyday. I mean, winter light is so different from summer light, and it is reflected in the shadows. If I take a picture at four in the afternoon as compared to another time,the shadows are very different, so I want to follow up on them. Reflections,for me, too are almost a different kind of reality.
D. Your work has a classic style, where do you draw influence? Are there any specific photographers or painters that may have an impact on your work?
E. That’s difficult for me to answer. I can say I appreciate a lot of photographers,but I think it’s because I grew up in an artist’s house. I was the only child, and my father would put up paintings and call me in and say “OK, now tell me what you think about this work that I did.” And I’d say “Well, I don’t know and this and that,” and he’d start to talk about painters and how modern art should be. He’s a modern artist and he talks about dark and light and color, and all of these experiences, I guess, have become more dominant in me. So when I take a photograph I try to look at the form and the light. I think the main influence is my father (laughs).
D. Well, you’re very lucky in that respect. How old were you when he started to have you critique his work?
E. He was pretty funny. I was 10 or 11, and because the work was abstract I would sit there and look at the shapes, and say “Oh, that looks like a flower” or “That looks like this” and he’d be saying “No, those shapes are not related to objects, just think about it as a feeling.” It was a good experience. This input of shapes and color and form probably came from him.
D. It’s funny that you mention color, because it’s only scattered through the work I have seen of yours. How do you decide if and when you use it? Do you shoot everything in color first?
E. Well, no. I have to tell this story. In my third year of college, I had to do an internship, and I wanted to go to New York. But I didn’t know anyone in New York. I looked through the annual black book of commercial photographers, and I wrote to many photographers in New York about an internship. Two people out of 70 or so letters answered. So I went to Mark Ferri Photography, and I spent 4 or 5 months in New York. But the first problem I had there was that I couldn’t point my camera at anyone. I was so scared. So I got this little camera from Mark. Since I loved grainy film, and loved to take pictures in 3200 ASA, I loaded that kind of film in it. Then I cut out part of a book and put the camera in it. I took pictures by hiding the camera in the book, so I am in New York walking around taking photographs through a book. The problem with the book, is that you can’t look through the viewfinder, so you always have to have it at chest level or a little lower and you’ve got to get the feel for it. It took a lot of film for me to get used to it. But because Manhattan had all these 90 degree buildings, tilting and such motions resulted in some dynamic output. But of course it’s never like looking through a viewfinder.
After I found iPhone, it was wonderful… to take photographs without intimidating people. Because a camera is like a gun, you know? (laughs) Black and white and grainy film is my love. I adore it. So when I found Hipstamatic, I said “OK! Something that simulates old films.” I fell in love with Hipstamatic, so most of my black and whites are taken with Hipstamatic. In a way I am scared of color (laughs). I guess it’s because I like to focus on the form, the shadows and the shapes. When I decide to take a color photo, it is generally when I feel brave enough to, or if that color is really going to bring out an extra story in the photo. Other than that I prefer to use the light, the forms and the shapes, so that’s why I’m kind of a black and white girl (laughs). There are two times when I shoot in color:always with the photos of the birds, I use ProCamera because it’s faster. Also when I try new things, like classic shots, sunsets and such.
D. Do you have a favorite combo on your Hipstamatic?
E. I like simplicity. My favorite is BlacKeys Super Grain. The lenses change from Ben Watts to John S, and I like Claunch Monochrome 72. Other than that I use Snapseed for some editing.
D. Back on influence for a moment. A lot of photographers, especially on IG, are inspired by music or songs, or in some cases go out shooting to music. Is there a musical connection for you? What’s your soundtrack?
E. I do listen to music when I take photos. I put my iPod on. I listen to two or three different albums generally. I love J.J. Cale, Ben Harper and Terra Nova.
D. Can you tell me about the image entitled “One?” It is an unbelievably captivating photograph.
E. David, maybe one day you’ll come here and see for yourself that Istanbul is a very beautiful but crowded city. First of all,its population is close to 15 million. There are certain areas in the city that are very historical, and also places that have very crowded bazaars. There are also many underground passageways, and standing on the stairs I love to stop and watch all the different people go by. Generally everyone is moving in one direction, and there was this guy trying to push his way against this huge crowd of people… so I took the picture.
D. Tell me about your favorite images.
“In a different world”
This is an old one. Istanbul is a city on the Bosphorus strait which divides Asia from Europe. I adore the ferries that that cross the strait. It is a joy to take photographs from the ferries. In this image, I can see the silhouette of Istanbul, with the mosques and other historical buildings. There was this guy leaning, and his head was down and we see the sea in the background, and it’s kind of a sad feeling there. We feel the weight of the city here, because it’s not an easy city to live in. It gives me the feeling that the weight of the city is on his shoulders, but we don’t know who he is. I just love the sea, the city silhouette, the man, and the man’s posture, he’s sad.
“Playing among the shadows”
I enjoy taking my kids’ photos. First, because they are so full of energy and I feel for them. And second they are kind of little people, they are in constant movement and I want to capture them and their shadows. They enjoy playing with their own shadows. So we were in an alley, and they were running around. Generally I don’t ask them to do anything for my photos. Here I just waited for them to come to a spot if they would.
This is a passageway, and the passerby’s shadows were very long. It’s a spot where I like to catch portraits while the subjects are walking. People are kind of in a different world when they on foot and it’s not easy to catch their facial expressions when they are walking. We always think when we are walking, about something.. so that’s why I want to try and catch walkers’ faces and the shadows. So we see the man,thinking, in my opinion.
I am passionate about the Galata Tower, it’s like a fairy tale tower. It’s been there for 700 years. Because I like that fairy tale look and it’s situated in a historical area with dense architecture and buildings around it, it’s not easy to find the tower’s reflection. I found the whole reflection of the tower when it was raining one Sunday and I was so, so, so happy. That’s why the title of the photo is “Found it!” (laughs)… so it’s the Galata Tower’s reflection with a couple passing by with an umbrella. I think it’s like finding a treasure.
Juxt thanks you for your words and your art.
About David Norbut
David Norbut @dnorphoto is drawn to capturing the raw beauty of the people he meets, and the environments surrounding us
If you’re into mobile photography, artist interviews are always a great way to learn more about the craft and discover a growing community of mobile photography artists. You can regularly check Juxt for updates!