Barbaros Kayan – When I was 8, while trying to create my own mixture with house cleaning products, hydrochloric acid reacted to bleach and although this left me out of breath for moments, I am still alive. I am still doing the same thing; trying to perceive and understand life, this time not with chemicals but with my camera. When I first started to develop interest in the discipline of documentary, I realised that the photographer can project himself onto the photographs he takes. Although what we see in such photographs is purely life itself, it is quite interesting to also find the chemistry of the photographer in the images. I think photography is not just an aesthetic frame which provides us charming images. Besides its purpose as a historical record, if the photographer wants it to, a photograph can speak all the languages of the world; can read the codes of life and human beings.
Camera: Canon Eos 5D Mark III.
Photographer: Josef Koudelka-Irving Penn.
Food: Anatolian food.
Country: All the countries that I have never been.
Hotel: All the cheap hotels that I have never seen.
Book: Blind / Sophie Calle.
-How did you start out professionally in photography? Since I was a kid, I was always on duty as a personal photographer of my family. My dad who noticed my curiosity about cameras would always give me a camera to play around with to keep me busy. During my studies at university, I started to get freelance projects. After graduating, I opened my own studio in a historical district in Istanbul but photography alone was never enough to survive financially, so I started to do graphic design works and spent the money I earned on taking photos. Today, I live by taking photos but it wasn’t easy for me to get to this point.
-What is your typical camera setup? Canon 5D Mark III body. Canon L 35mm 1.4f Canon L 85mm 1.2f.
-What photographer has most influenced your own work and why? Different photographers might have affected me during different phases. Yet there is one photographer and I feel his presence beside me since the day I first saw his work. Koudelka’s courage and his photography evolving with himself has always been an enchanting example for me.
-Describe your process for getting editorial work published. There are two main titles for the editorial works; Portrait shoots and conceptual shoots. Generally 8-10 usable photos are requested in portrait works, and that includes the cover as well. I can find myself in any different part of the world, spending a couple of days with an individual who I hadn’t even met before, to take their portraits. This requires me to get to know them in a rather limited time and reflect their reality through mine- and that’s hard work. Because of my dramatic style, sometimes I have a hard time balancing things out.
During conceptual shots however, I’m completely free and I set my own borders. The editors I work with already know about my world view when they hire me; therefore I’m not expected to work in another’s photographic view but only in mine.
-What is your post-production workflow like? Quite simple. After taking the photographs I edit them via a camera raw editing software. I have a few specific adjustment values that I mostly set and after that, I don’t really do any further touch-ups. I used to work on Adobe Bridge previously, but now I prefer Adobe Lightroom. After the editing is done, if the photos are going to be printed on a magazine I convert them to CMYK and take them to print office myself. I don’t really like any surprises after the printing. If there’s enough time, I stay during the print process to check if everything’s OK and make any little adjustments I need to make there.
-What is your dream project? The thought of taking a long train trip around Kashmir region and preparing a photo-story of this journey gets in my dreams at night. But I can’t say I’m not intimidated, knowing that it’s going to be quite a dangerous journey. Someday I will gain the courage, earn the money and have the time I need and embark on this journey. I’ve already started looking for sponsors.
-What is your biggest resource in relation to technical knowledge and how long did it take you to master your technique? My biggest resource is curiosity. Throughout my university education, I have received great help from books and knowledgeable professors. I was never ashamed to knock on their doors to ask questions. Yet I can say this; the technical knowledge can be brought to an almost flawless level, but if photographs lack a part of the photographer – it will never be enough.
-Do you see your photography as art, commercial or documentary based? If art is a way of expression, yes I do. I only do the commercial works because I need money. I can say that I reflect myself better in documentary projects. Some people do not accept it when the photographer puts a part of himself in such photographs but I’m not a security camera; if a part of me is not in the frame that I shot, it means that frame’s not done.
-Is there a single photograph you are most proud of? I don’t think I could make such a choice, at least for now. All photos have unique stories and realities. The ones that I specifically love are already exhibited on my website.
-What was it like being a photographer on the ground during Occupy Taksim? Today when you take a look at the news, you can see that 101 journalists were hurt and as many were taken into custody. That is a horrifying number! Moreover, I was one of the journalists who was taken into custody. It was not easy to shoot photographs during the incidents; without a gas mask and a helmet it could have brought one to his death, because of the gas bomb overuse, and the capsules being intentionally aimed on the people. Staying behind the police could have been safe yet they would take you into custody permissively- and I didn’t want to hide behind them to hunt the protestors with my teleobjective. The protests were indeed in my interest as well, the rebelling people were my people and I was one of them. The best thing I could do was to take photos and show the world what was happening and I believe I did it as well as I could.
-What was the best career advice you were ever given? I haven’t taken too many advices but my friends encouraged me to keep on, whatever happens. Their support is enough to keep me going.