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.