Evaluation

I’ve talked about the origins of this project in a previous post, but I will quickly explain how this project came about. I used to work at Inans shop when I studied at college, before university as a delivery driver, I would also work there during summer break from uni to earn a bit of spending money. Being roughly the same age, Inan and I used to get on really well, having banter with one and other, talking about cars and generally just having a good friendship. I remember having a break one day and having a conversation with Haydar, Inans dad. He was watching something on his phone which was clearly upsetting him, so I asked what it was and he went on to explain to me the whole Kurd vs Turk war going on. I had never heard about this, let alone heard of a place called Kurdistan. He continued to talk me through the history and present day violent clashes that would occur in the Turkish/Syrian/Iraq borders. It intrigued me, as I had never heard or seen any news coverage of this conflict at all. At the time it was all focus on Afghanistan in the news media. This was during a summer break from uni, so both Inan and Haydar knew I was doing documentary photography at uni. Inan had always been intrigued with the conflicts in Turkey, and jokingly we would always say that we was going to go, photograph on the front lines, myself and Inan. Untill then it had always been a joke, untill I suggested, well why not? He wanted to visit the front lines and I wanted to witness/document it. It sounded risky and dangerous, and it was. Just a week later news emerged of an ISIS beheading of a British journalist. As a result of this, we both were too scared. I tried suggesting other ways of getting out to Turkey, like visiting his home town in Kayseri and creating a body of work around him there, but he still deemed to too dangerous. He commented saying if I was found to be in the town I would be killed the next day. Journalists aren’t appreciated in those regions, especially foreign ones. Its a shame as I feel the body of work could have been alot stronger with some photographs from Turkey in there. It’s just too dangerous. So we set about creating the body of work in England.

 

I’ve been back and forth to Essex planning and shooting this project 5 times. Inan being the owner of the kebab shop means he is a very busy man with little to no time spare to sit around and chat. The first visit I intended just to catch up with him, to get comfortable with him again and to re ignite the friendship, if it were. I didn’t want to just turn up with a camera and demand him where to go, what to do and what to say, I wanted Inan to have a big input in this body of work, as ultimately its about him. I wanted him to be comfortable with me working around him too, for the whole time I’ve known him, he’s been a fairly shy person and has never seen myself work with a camera. So I didn’t want it to seem weird. The second visit I intended to do the video interview. Inan really wasn’t into it at the time, felt uncomfortable and would rather Haydar talk to the camera. Understandable, you cant force someone to do something, so we arranged to do it another time. On the third visit I finally took some photographs, I made sure to get there really early at about 12pm so he didn’t have much work to do, as they usually prepare all the food for the long evening shift. Again you could sense his uncertainty and shyness when the camera was taken out of my bag, but we slowly got there. Starting off slow and getting more adventurous images as we went on. I have explained the process of shooting the images in a previous post. I tried to get Inan to speak to the camera again for this video interview but he was still uncertain and would rather Haydar do it, unfortunately Haydar wasn’t feeling too well and was at home resting, so we re arranged. On the forth visit I attempted to do the video interview, but just missed Haydar as he was leaving. So finally Inan plucked up the courage to speak on camera. The audio wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, I wanted detailed information and opinions from Inan but instead the answers he was giving me were very vague and obscure. So I went back the next day and told him, for the fifth visit. He suggested instead of him talking on camera if he could just write down his answers and send them to me, so he can put them in better english and take his time thinking about his answers instead of rushing it like we did before. So I wrote them down for him and let him take his time to send them back. Thankfully this was a really smart move, now Inan had time to fully explore his feelings and knowledge of the conflicts and was much more detailed information which I was looking for. I then proceeded to make the book.

 

I need better camera equipment… when shooting my lens was misfocusing massively. Granted I was shooting on f2/2.8 some times, but my Sigma tends to always throw the focus way out, its so annoying. I’ve tried to have it corrected by sending it back but its still doing it. I’m not happy with the lens and its doing my head in. Another problem I was facing whilst shooting was Inans shyness. It took a while to get the photographs as he was really shy and kept laughing out of nerves. I dont think his ever been photographed like this before, maybe it was just because I was doing it. I dont know, but having to calm him down and take a break seemed to help alot. It was difficult to get around through as a shot which should take literally 5 minutes to get took double as he kept laughing and moving out of the poses I was directing him to do.  Oh well, we got there in the end.

 

Speaking with Anthony, he suggested I create a video slideshow with the images transitioning over the top of the audio from out interview in the background, I gave this a go, but the audio topic and information we got just wasn’t good enough. I think thats why Inan wanted to write the answers down, rather than talk about it as it gives him time to fully explore the topic and go more in depth than just a conversation. I feel that the images do capture what I intended to say. I want the body of work to be about Inans home town, a sort of self discovery of the troubles Kurdish people face every week. So I wanted him to be aggressive, look strong and powerful. I did this multiple ways by using the lighting to create moody atmospheres as well as asking Inan to pull facial expressions when shooting. Why make him look angry? Well it wouldn’t work as well if he looked so calm and uncaring about people dying back in Syria, I wanted to pull some emotion out of him, really get his feelings towards Turkey out in the open.

 

So for this body of work I have decided to scrap the slideshow idea, as the audio just wan’t cutting it. So I’ve made a book instead. A 10×8 portrait book which has mixed text and photographs on page. I guess the appropriate question to ask, is a book the best format for conveying the message of the work across? I’ve been delving into a lot of video work recently and have been thoroughly enjoying it, I feel that video is the next step in documentary/photojournalism as it is easier to digest in general for the mass market. But for this project, I think you need to take your time, time to read the questions/answers and also time to look at Inan and analyse the emotions on his face to help understand the feelings he feels toward the conflicts. I want the reader to take their time and not just flick through, I’ve tried to do this by putting both text and images on the same page, so they have the choice to read the text as well as glare across to the photograph of Inan if needs be, rather than turning the page and loosing momentum. It just makes it easier to digest I believe. The aspect of a book invites the reader to take their time also, you can read a book at your own pace and not be confined to how many seconds is left to watch the video. For this reason I decided a book was the way to go.

 

I would like to continue this project further, the conflicts in Turkey are getting worse, as seen by the emerging news articles appearing from RT about the 150 civilians being burnt alive by Turkish Army happening only last month in March. If anything, I think the clashes are only going to get worse before they get better. The fight with ISIS is growing, as is Turkeys aim to wipe out the Kurds. Turkish political system is corrupt and unjustified which is causing people to rise up. Lets not forget that the Kurds are also supporting the US by telling them ISIS positions as well as fighting them in combat on the front lines. In all intensive purposes, the Kurds are ‘the good guys’, although they are still listed as a terrorist organization by the US… But I would love to explore this, and perhaps actually visit Kurdistan like we originally joked about. I dont think its going to get any safer, but I would like to see for myself what is going on.

Book v6 – Final

I’ve got it to a point that I am happy with. Finally, after annoying all of my classmates for feedback and comments, I feel happy with it.

What’s changed from v5 then? I’ve overall made the text a smaller size, the book is a 8×10 portrait book, I don’t want the text to be absolutely massive, so i’ve reduced the size slightly from 17 to 14. I Think this is a good choice as I think 17 would be way too big in actual print of the book. I don’t want it to be too in your face, so i’ve made the font smaller.

I’ve also re arranged the image of Inans beard close up, previously it was pared with the discussion of corruption within Turkish government, but I have decided to re arrange it to be paired up to the topic of identity. Why? because in the discussion he talks about feeling like an outsider when he visits Kayseri. I felt like this faceless photograph would match up perfectly with the topic of corruption and illegal activities as its a dark, underground topic which nobody wants to own up to/take responsibility. The relationship between the faceless photograph and the text about corruption are very complimenting of each other and I feel that they re-enforce their topic of illegal activities and corruption. I’ve specifically tried to design the book in a way that each text has an image to support it. The images and text are designed to work together to enforce the story. At least thats the idea.

Am I happy with it? Absolutely, I’ve finally got it to a way which I’m happy with. Im exited to see how it turns out in print.

Book v5

Following Lily and Liams advice, I decided to try and put the images on the same page as the text. I was a bit hesitant to do this at first as I wanted the book to be read slowly and cautiously, with the ability to take the time to read the text before turning the page. But after speaking to them, they both said they would rather have the image of Inan so they could put a face to the text, make the text more personal and live for example. It also means that they can read the text, look over at Inan if needs be then continue reading from where they left off. I had a little play and did actually like it. It also fixes the problem of it feeling too padded out as the book has now halved in size. I was worried this would make it look a little empty and would diminish the quality of the photobook, but I would rather a smaller, concise book which is stronger, than a hard to read padded out book which is just wasting space. Here it is anyway.

Overall I do l think it has improved. It feels more solid, less padded out and all round a bit more finished. I’m not too worried about it being only 30 pages long as I feel the book is now a lot easier to read.

I also decided to add two more images, to help the story a little more and also to help the narrative. For example, I put the image of Inan with the sharpening knives crossed together next to the question about the solution to the fighting and if he things its best to continue with war or try to resolve it through politics. I feel this adds a sense of hostility and makes the viewer think about violence as a result of the correlation of knives on screen. This is the aim of the combination of text and images anyway. It is the readers own interpretation which will come up with the context, but this is my goal.

 

Getting there, a few more things to adjust and it may be finished soon.

Book v4

I’ve gone through a few different book layouts and presentations since last updating the blog, messing around with positioning, font, size and layout. Things which I dont necessarily think are needed to be shown on the blog, I feel this one should be shown however as I have changed the text out from the previous video interview to the new written interview by Inan.

 

I’ve decided to keep it the same style of text, turn over page, image, turn over page.. so that the reader has time to concentrate on both the text and images.

 

Things I like about the book:

  • Page size
  • Image placement on screen
  • Bold question title – makes it easier to read

Things I don’t like:

  • It feels a bit too padded out – Asked for feedback from Lily and Liam and they both agreed that it did feel a bit too padded out, hiding the work as it were. They would both rather see the images next to the text to help read the page.
  • Text may be too big, will play about with making it smaller.

Inan Interview v2

The audio interview didn’t go as planned, so I asked him to do it again. This also shows the questions that I asked.

 

“Where is it you are from? I am inan kurt and Im from a village in kayseri/eskiyassipinar

 

What do you identify yourself as, Kurdish? I am kurdish

 

Can you briefly explain the history of Kurdistan/Kurdish life? History of Kurdistan is around 5000 years, but the Kurdish problem really began in 1923 which they were divided in to 4 regions, today Kurdish population is over 15+ million in Turkey only , and there are Iran, Syria and Iraq. Kurds started immigration in the mid 20th century to Western Europe, settled in different countries such as North America because of political chaos in the region , social problems, such as not able to present them self as a kurd it didn’t really matter which country they were in all 4 of the countries had the same point of view agains kurds

 

What are goals for Kurdish people. The goals for Kurdish people is to be independent which in my point of view is taking place slowly, in Iraq since saddam regime has put to an end the north of Iraq is now Kurdistan and west of Syria is now Kurdistan iswell because of independence of kurds in two countries put turkey to a worry.

 

What do you think is the future of Kurdish communities? Well the Kurdish future is very hard to estimate because of the problems around them but what I believe that a population over 40 million should have their own identity and not hide from being Kurdish or forced live under other identity.

 

In your opinion, what is the solution to the fighting, politics or war? In my view the war is the worst scenario but what ever they achieved in the past yeas was war, especially in turkey after being killed and tortuned for being a kurd put Kurdish people in fear so in 1974 pkk Kurdistan workers party was created to protect Kurdish people since then there has been a war with Turkish government especially in east of turkey there is civil war which government hides from the world. What is wrong is that in turkey every man is entitled to do military service but iff they can afford to pay about 5 thousand pounds they don’t have to do it Which divides rich and poor so, poor dies

 

What is wrong with Turkish government? Turkey is not being ruled by democracy 40% or more of the mps is comiting crimes such as money laundering including the president and his family but cause of Parliamentary privilege there cant be arrested There has been voting for it to be removed but 60 percent of the parliament members said no so Turkish government is Not fair on there people.

 

Can you briefly explain about the greed and corruption in politicians in Turkey? The greed is really noticeable in turkey but the system the government has created hides it under religion, example lots of mosques built in turkey there are more mosque then schools there are well over 80 thousand mosques in turkey which has over 90 thousands religious employee which is coruppeted by the government and brain washing people, there are few Turkish channels that critics Turkish government and they are being forced to closed down,

 

When do you go to visit Kayseri? Well last time I went kayseri was to see my granddad now that he passed way I am not looking forward to go there.

 

Where do you feel is home, the UK or Kayseri? When I last visited kayseri it felt as to me that I was a outsider cause I had to hide that I was Kurdish and say I was English or Turkish so in that conclusion uk is my home and this is were I could express my self and feelings either Im Kurdish or Turkish muslim or Christian we are all equal.”

Book v1

So i’ve been toying around with the output of the project for a few days. After talking to Anthony about the shoot, he was more in favour of doing a slideshow with images scrolling across with the audio interview in the background. I’ve created it, but the audio isn’t the strongest. Inan was very nervous of the camera in the first place and felt embarrassed with his work mates watching us, so talking on video was very hard for him. You can sense the nervousness in his voice in the video. Also what he was saying wasn’t very detailed, it sort of just scratched the surface and didn’t really give as much information as I was expecting. So I’ve decided, after trying the slideshow idea to scrap it and create a book. I’m going to use the quotes from the interview to emphasizes the story and bring a narrative to the book. I may ask him to re do the audio though, as I say it’s not the best.

Issuu messed up the pages ordering, the pages are meant to be half the size, but you can see layout and quotes fine…

 

Im going to ask Inan to re do the interview as he was really nervous during the video interview and didn’t want to re do it. He offered to write down the interview if I sent him the questions I wanted on Facebook. So I’m going get him to do it again I think.

 

Will get him to do it asap.

Selected images

Out of the few I took, here are a select few which I prefer over the others. And i’ll explain the reasoning behind them.

Matt vs AJ

I spoke a little about the inspiration behind this shot in my research post about Andrew Jackson, but I will go into a little more detail now. I remember when Andrew put this image up on screen at our talk with him at uni. Something about it made me really enjoy and connect with the image when I first saw it. I loved the calm expression on his face, eyes shut and blissfully looking into the sunlight. I loved the way his clothes juxtaposed his expression and gives us a look into the subjects personality, rough on the outside, soft on the inside. This is something that I wanted to take and explore with Inan, although in a slightly different way. I knew Inans feelings toward Turkey are very negative, anger and frustration come to mind when talking about it with him. Which is understandable considering Kurdish people have been dying at the hands of Turkish security forces every week. The whole body of work I am trying to create is trying to show Inans anger through the use of my photographs. Bearing that in mind I asked Inan to stand against the wall, look in the direction of the sun. He commented saying I cant, its too bright. But that is what I wanted, the bright light from the sun would make Inan squint and frown, giving him an angry, pissed off facial expression which I was after. I wanted him to look angry to replicate the feelings Inans has. The images, side by side are very simuar, although I decided to manipulate the original a little bit by making Inan look aggressive rather than peaceful and content. I decided to add a bit more free, dead space above Inans head to remove Inans body and posture out of the frame, but keeping the wide angle style of the image, similarly to Andrews.


 

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Next up is this shot of Inan I took standing in the carpark just outside of the shop he owns. Having visited the shop regularly, I knew the outside houses opposite the shop would be the perfect backdrop for what I was trying to say. So what am I trying to say? I wanted a shot that would help put a location on Inan, showing the type of place he lives/works in. the old, 70’s esk 3 story flats in the background were the perfect opportunity for this. I feel that the oldschool, run down flats symbolise the location as being London/outskirts of London. As many people think, most successful businesses operate in/around London as a result of the population and business generated being in the capital. This is the same with Inan, the shop is located in Essex with the main underground tube station into London literally a stones throw away. I wanted to get a sense of location with this shot. I also planned to get the buildings structure to be leading lines which help draw the eye in to Inans face. Thankfully I knew the location well and planned Inan to stand in the carpark so that the houses would help create the image I am after. Back to the topic of posture and facial expressions, I again wanted Inan to look aggressive and angry again, to show his frustration again. I also asked him to cross his arms, to help with the reading of the image as well as show off Inans statue. He’s a big guy who likes to go to the gym, so I wanted to emphasise this by making him look aggressive and muscular. On reflection I should have asked him to take his jacket off.


 

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One of the more obscure and mysterious shots in the book, a moody shadow photograph which raises questions on identity. This  is the goal of the image, to question the actual identity of Inan, weather he considers himself as an Englishman or a Kurd. It was also another way to photograph Inan in a way that isn’t just a standard straight on portrait. I wanted to experiment and try to capture unique images rather than the standard face on, dull portraits which anyone can take. Pushing the boat out is what I was trying to do. I didn’t want the photographs to get repetitive so I had to try to do something new.


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Wasn’t too keen on using this image, but I wanted a way to create a cross (an X) with props to symbolise Inans views against the civil wars going on. I wanted to incorporate this image in as a result of the X being formed with the sharpening knives, as a metaphor which says “stop the fighting”. But at the same time, a man holding knives can also be perceived as a willingness to fight, so the image can be read in either way. But the way I intended was for Inan to be against the fighting and the X being formed is a plee to stop the fighting.


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The final image I wanted to talk about is this one. Out of all of them, this is a tied favorite with the one of Inan against the backdrop of the flats with the clear blue sky. I wanted to create a moody image which causes a lot of questions. I wanted to create a dark and moody image to create the illusion of uncertainty. Uncertainty in Inan and the future of Kurdistan. I plan on putting the images with supporting text either next to or on the page after the image so that there is something to read and enforce the story. I want the viewer to be able to read the comments, turn the page and take in the image in as much detail as possible. I need to figure out the best was of doing this.

 

I have a rough idea how the book is going to look, but I dont have a definitive idea in my head of exactly how it’s going to look. I just need to get experimenting.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew coming in to talk to us at university was great, immensely well produced, well structured and greatly executed images caught my attention. He sparked something in my mind when he was talking about photographing the fire department in his early photography career when he was discussing the topic of wanting a certain image more than anything in the world. He was talking about this scene were an unfortunate elderly woman stood out watching her house engulfed in flames. He explained that he was in such a photographic state of mind that all he could think about was getting the shot and producing the goods as it were, all moral and emotional sympathy had for the time being resided. All he wanted was to get the shot he was looking for. This sparked something which I felt greatly about and was actually the starting point of my dissertation, in essence discussing the theory of how photography disjoints yourself from reality and the outside world.

 

Moving on to the work, one series grabbed me especially.

The Hidden Landscape

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The images are very simular to what I want to achieve, roughly the same location and the personality/tough boy persona is also comparable in the subject I hope to photograph. I really enjoy the way Andrew has created this body of work, using details such as the way the men sit on the stairs together as a way to add narrative, as well as a peek into their homes. The body of works gives us a great insight into the lives of these young men and their emotions, however much of a front they decide to cast upon themselves. I really enjoy the way in which the images are shot also, fairly wide angle, some with a little depth of field but not too much and greatly composed. Another shot I really like is the one where Andrew photographs through people with the hand in bandages being in the foreground with the woman with her hood up being the main focus. Leading lines play a key role in photography and the reading of images, and Andrew has mastered it. As you could probably of guessed, the shot of the young man against the wall is the inspiration I used for my shot of Inan agains a similarly red wall. I will do into my image selection process in another post.

 

Having Andrew come in to talk to us was highly rewarding, one of the best visiting lecturers we’ve ever had in my opinion. I feel his work has heavily influenced my own work and has greatly improved my ability to photograph individuals in a unique manner.

Shoot #1 & #2

Its hard shooting Inan. He’s a busy man, working at the kebab shop all day everyday with very little time to relax. I want to talk about how I met Inan for a second, to give some context. When I was studying in college, I used to work at this Kabab shop in Essex called Ali Baba in Elm Park. Inan and his father Haydar own the shop and Inan is only 2 years older than myself, he is currently 23, so we instantly clicked and got on, mostly talking about cars and giving each other banter etc. The idea for this project came around a long long time ago. I remember having a break, eating some food with Haydar when he was watching something on his phone. He was watching videos from Turkey of the beginning of their slaughter of Kurds in the Turkish regions. He was watching gunfights, shelling and atrocities being committed on his iPhone. I could see he was getting upset about what he was watching so I asked, are you okay, what are you looking at? He showed me the video and began to talk to me about the Turkish army killing innocent Kurds. Being interested in photography and world relations, I obviously paid attention and listened as best as I could as Haydars English isn’t the best either. It sprung into my head, why is this not on the news, how comes I have never even heard of Kurdistan before? It got my interested in what was going on really. I cant remember exactly when this was, but it was around the time when ISIS was really starting to take control of states in Iraq and Syria, also around the time the British journalists were beheaded. It made me loose trust with the news papers and media to be honest, as i’ve never heard of an incidents from Turkey beforehand.

 

Anyway, the shoot. Went alright, I already knew the shots I wanted in my head. I clearly remember one image that stuck in my head from the photographer Andrew Jackson who came into uni to talk to us last semester. There was a photograph of a young asian man against a red brick wall which caught my attention. I wanted to recreate that. In Andrews photograph, the man has his eyes closed, looking peaceful. I wanted to stir it up a little. I got Inan to look toward the sun and frown, to show anger and frustration. In all of the shots I wanted of Inan, I wanted him to look angry and scary as a knew he was a big chap who hits the gym regularly. I wanted to show, with his facial expressions, the feelings he has against Turkey in a way.

 

Another shot I knew I wanted was a shot to put Inan into context. I knew that the location of the shop is on a highstreet, next to a busy train station. So there are 3 story 1970s flats surrounding Inans shop. I wanted to shot like this to place Inan in an environment, show where he is living and most importantly show that it is East London. Again I asked Inan to look angry and also confident, asking him to raise his chin slightly. I had to bring out the shadows in his beard in post production as I feel his beard is a key feature of his appearance which needed to remain.

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I also wanted to capture Inan speaking, on video about his knowledge of Kurdistan so that I could take his words and use them as quotes in my book for the degree show/hand in. But he was too busy to spare 10 minutes to talk, so I had to come back the next week. I finally got his time though, set up the camera in my car and asked him a few questions, surrounding Turkey, Kurdistan, the history of Kurdistan and if he knew how it all started.