“Everywhere I go I take Istanbul with me.”
Interview by Melodi Gülbaba, Ekin Sanaç
Ahmet Polat is getting ready to open his fourth solo exhibition at x-ist space, İstanbul. Named A Bridge Too Far, Polat’s exhibition will bring together a selection of photographs taken in İstanbul and will be on until April 2. Hear Polat on his relationship with the city, his discoveries and suggestions.
Why did you want to become a photographer in the first place?
The funny thing is that I just recently analyzed where my earliest relationship with photography possibly started. When I was 8 years old my mother would always make these diapositive slideshow presentations in our home to look at our holiday pictures from Turkey. Imagine having your private movie theater in your living room with all these wonderful memories projected on your wall. The feeling of that experience has always stayed with me.
How did the theme for the exhibition and the photography series “A Bridge Too Far” develop?
Obviously our country is going through a hard time with very difficult changes. I’m not blind to the stress this brings. But I’m not a photographer that covers the news. I see my work as possible predictions or as a reflective tool on things that have past. So with this work I’m trying to reflect and predict at the same time.
Where does the name “A Bridge Too Far” come from? Why is the “bridge” that “far”?
The title comes from a book written in 1974 by Cornelius Ryan. Later on a movie was made with Gene Hackman and Anthony Hopkins. The story is about the Brits who are fighting in Holland to take over a bridge in Arnhem that was still under the control of the Germans. You should watch the movie, its quit good but what is interesting is that the critics where criticizing the movie for not being factual. Which in itself is very funny because history is always a part fantasy, a perspective never written by those who loose. So in other words it’s a good premise for my work on Turkey.
Your exhibition only shows photos taken in Istanbul. How has the relationship between Istanbul and photography developed for you over the years? How have your themes, locations and methods changed?
I’ve started photographing and documenting this place in 1997, so almost 20 years I’ve been working and living here. My work style and approach is Istanbul. Everywhere I go I take Istanbul with me.
What is your most recent discover about Istanbul?
I always new that Istanbul had a heart and soul. But I never felt this much pain in this city then in these recent years. So I had to take some distance to find the beauty again. I’m still waiting for it.
As a photographer at this point in your career, would you say you have identified your style and motivations? Or would you say this is still an ongoing process?
A truly creative human never stops evolving, questioning, pushing his borders ideas and understanding of the worlds around them. So of course I understand more about myself but there is so much more to discover.
This is your fourth exhibition at x-ist space. How do you approach photography exhibitions? What are the most important criteria for you in terms of setting up an exhibition? What are your observations when looking at other photography exhibitions? What is inspiring and what is not?
I love going to art fairs and art schools to see young talent and old-school artists exhibit their work. For any artist it’s important to see what is happening all over the world or else you are stuck with the limitations of what people say in our industry A framing guy would say you can’t do this or you can’t do that. I believe we all know how it works. But we as artists have to decide how far we want to push it, not them.
I still see a lot of improvement that can be made within the photography scene in Turkey, but I also know that I have to be patient. I used to move too fast and nobody understood what I was trying to say. The older generation didn’t get it and the young generation wasn’t ready yet. But now I believe photography is becoming a bigger part of our society. Through social media – facebook, instagram and other platforms young people can see what it going on outside of Turkey. So this is a good thing. But at the same time it will be harder to surprise people. So we need to work harder. But I don’t mind working hard!
What would you say to younger photographers who are younger in their careers?
Find good people you can trust who can help you edit your work. Try to work both with digital and in print. These worlds are connected but they need different skills. Have patience.
What are you working on currently? Anything we can expect from you after “A Bridge Too Far” this year?
I’m still working on “A Bridge Too Far”. This will continue for a while. At the same time I have several exhibitions lined up in London, Amsterdam, Hilversum and Miami. With three different projects. In Holland I’m still working on the Dutch streets as the Lauriat of the Nation. This will continue until 2017. I’m also working on an exhibition of refugees that traveled to Europe. And I’m starting up a new project in Miami this year for the next three years on the Hidden History of Miami.