Photography Artist, Writer on Arts, Photography Collector, attempt on Mimar Sinan University Institute of Photography, European Capitals of Culture activities in 2010, curator of ‘Exhibition of Photography Gateway’, Founder Curator of the Istanbul Photography Museum, Art director of Photo Istanbul 1st Beşiktaş Festival of Photography.
For our readers to be able to get to know you a little closer, could you please tell us about yourself?
My identity in regard to the art of photography is as follows :
I was born in 1940 in Istanbul. Photography artist, writer on arts, photography collector, attempt on Mimar Sinan University Institute of Photography, European Capitals of Culture activities in 2010, curator of ”Exhibition of Photography Gateway”, found curator of the Istanbul Photography Museum, art director of Photo Istanbul 1st Beşiktaş Festival of Photography. I also lead courses, inhouse and abroad conferences, seminars and shows besides the Photography Magazine and annuals.
I took over 1 million shots in aroud 87 countries. And these have been exhibited not only in Turkey but also in 18 different countries and entered museum and library collections. I have 102 copyrighted books and alnums. And I keep taking shots each and everyday.
How has your story of photography begun?
It all began with a photography contest I attended when I was a student at Saint George. And since 1958, for the last 59 years, I’ve been dealing with this field of art non-stop. I never worked for somebody or a company, an organization; I’ve always been on my own in a freelance manner and reached today by myself. They call me, ”Hezarfen”, meaning a ‘multi-function’ person. That’s simply because other than photography, I’m also interested in illustrations, glass work, glass figures and contemporary works for many years.
It is obvious that each photographer has a style of his/her own. What is it that makes a shot, a “Gültekin Çizgen work”?
It’s the artist who performs the art. In my works, I try to form a structure combining uniqueness with an identity. I find shape important because we observe everything through its shape. My black&white works reflect my identity easily with the contrast and fuller approach. And in my colored works, I pay more attention to the atmosphere. It’s my featuring to compose an atmosphere in photography. If you explore the samples, you will easily catch this.
When capturing shots in rural areas where humans get in shape with nature in harmony, what do you look for in color, texture and story in your compositions?
I do not only capture shots from rural areas neither in my country nor in the whole world. I form my own world with all the photos I’ve collected from the visual ocean under nearly 70 different titles.
We can observe the human factor and the expression of human in your photographs. Why do you think are humans objects/elements to be photographed?
Life is the main skeleton of photography and so none of the world masters have given up photographing “humanity”. I’m on the same path with them.
Your photographs have been exhibited in over 13 countries and in Turkey for many times. Hundreds of multivision programmes which you have produced and directed have been broadcasted in over 24 countries from the States to Kazakhstan. And not every artist is able to find the opportunities to produce his/her works abroad. How did it make you feel having an exhibition of your own outside of your country?
As I indicated before, it’s the artists who create the art. This is what is written in famous art historian, Gombrich’s book ”Story of Art”. There’s no art, but there are the artists. And in my opinion, art is produced only for oneself. Without being beaten against the popularist culture; art is the permanent path to happiness with sincerity. It’s inevitable that success is something nice. I’m leading a happy life of my own, fully devoted to art.
What do you pay attention to the most when taking photos? What actions do you take in orfer to capture the shots you premeditate?
I’m still working hard and trying to improve myself. And photography is not “hunting the moment” and yet photographs are not taken, but ‘created’. What I mean is; an artist can only produce good things with the way (s)he approaches life and his/her attitude towards. In this sense, I think I pay most of my attention to this.
With the developing of digital photography, taking photos have become even easier. And with instagram usage spreading, we have huge numbers of new artists. How do you interpret all these?
It’s obvious that the technical background of photography being easier and spreading is something nice. But that doesn’t make anyone an artist. Art, is a matter of philosophy and devotion. You need to water your flower each and everyday. There are of course new colleagues, but when the flood removes back, you have the sand remaining. We’ll see who will remain.
Would you like to share a memory of yours during a shooting with ISTANBUL&İSTANBUL readers?
There are hundreds and hundreds, but narrating all these is another job. For the ones who want to learn; they can visit the Istanbul Museum of Photography which I’m the founder curator of; and there is a book of 1064 pages, “Işıkla Resmedenler – Gültekin Çizgen (Yaşam ve Söylem)” written by the precious researcher authot, Tekin Ertuğ. There are so many things told in that book.
What have you been up to recently? Do you have any new projects?
I’m working every day. I’m preparing a new series on photography education. There will be my new exhibitions, shows and conferences soon. I’m also working on short videos. I’m 77 and I do not give even a pause in order not to fall down.
Are there any amateur or professiponal photographers whom you like or be inspired by the styles of? If so, could you please share with us?
Of course there are. Precious photographers, Yusuf Darıyerli, Ali Borovalı and my assistant, Serkant Hekimci are the ones whom I really admire and follow.