FEATURED MEMBER – Ilker Gürer

Posted on January 28, 2011

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http://www.ilkergurer.com/

Born in July 18th 1976 in Turkey, Ilker Gürer had his high school education in Istanbul. At the age of 19, Gürer decided to study in USA to improve his linguistic skills and also with the aim of seeking for a job that would fit him. Studied in a small town in Florida, Gürer went to the Central Florida Community College on Business Administration that he later on dropped it. Once his first camera Fujica Slr bought from a Pawnshop, Gürer started getting strongly interested in documentary photography. 

   However, Ilker Gürer’s passion for photography got stronger in 2002 in Sudan while working there for two years in Gezira state area, near Khartoum. Shooting photographs of locals then was just for hobby. In his way back to Turkey in 2004, Gürer knew that he had found what he wanted to do in his life. His first documentary was photographed in 2005 on disabled basketball players. His passion on documentary after that experience got even stronger. Gürer has been freelancing ever since for various publications in news and documentary. What inspires him is the examination of the effects of urban transformation on humans and the way they express their strength when facing hardship. 

Q.  What does art mean for you?
A.  It is kind of a Political and existential way of seeing life I guess. The purpose of art could be to influence and touch the masses or even just minorities. In my case, in my geographical location, I suppose my targeted audience is quite limited. I believe art could play the role of bringing the differences together, providing platforms for people to discuss and share.

Art is progressive, and all the artists, no matter how hard they try to seclude themselves in order to see things, they cannot deny that they are also products of the environments, with their own social backgrounds and societies they come from. I believe that the creation of Art could only come from people’s understanding and engagement with the world surrounding them, always in a process of being shaped and reshaped. Art is not a record but a recording, much more then a reflection of human agency and action.

Q. What does photography mean to you?
A.  I would like to say that I completely agree with Berger on his definition of photography. He says that photography is about capturing the moments after a process of rendering observation of self- consciousness. I believe the standards of ‘what is worth looking at’ could be judged by all that I willingly have not shown. Therefore the style I try to adopt as a photographer all about the collaboration and connections I build with the subjects. I try to bring their voices into their visual images by allowing their dreams and fantasies to take shape. Therefore, by adding the documentary touch, which is not documentation- realism, could contribute a lot to reflexive yet less subjective visual interpretations.

The representational media should not be mistaken as mirrors that reflect reality but rather be accepted as a system through which different identities could be performed. The photographer here is also a performed identity.

Q.  Do you have a favorite piece among your works?
A.  I would say until now I shot two really great pictures that I could call my favorites. Both are from street and single images. Other then that, I really liked being in Crimea; the actual place and those people attracted me enormously. So when it comes to my favorite story, I could say that my Crimean Tartar story is my favorite until today.

Q.  What were your subjects when you first started out?
A.  I was very shy at the beginning so I started with animals and concrete stuff. People were a bit too complicated and difficult for me to approach. So I concentrated on nature, the environment and buildings where I discovered technical aspects of the camera, but the dream was always to shoot social life, and humans.

Q.  Could you tell us a bit more about your creative process?
A.  As I mentioned it earlier, I began with documentary style photography .I was influenced by Robert Capa, Eugene Smith and some other famous documentary photographers. They were and still are my heroes.  I realized that I found my way in photography through them and I had only one purpose when I chose photography: social issues. I shot for about three months the first time in 2000, then in 2004. Those 4 years that I spent without shooting were an education period for me, where I learned how to look and perceive photojournalism and related works, stories. In 2004, I decided to become a photographer, earn my life through it and go deeper into that process. Throughout the years, the more I got comfortable shooting in the streets the more I realized that I like ‘the happening of the everyday life’ and it’s simplicity and complications in the same time were two things that attracted me to it the most. Then it leaded me to shoot the way I do now. I opened not only my eyes but my heart to people and to the rest of the world.

Q.  What equipment do you use and why?
A.  I use digital SLR and two small fix lenses; in the beginning, I thought that the 35mm fitted me more than the square format. Lately, I use both the 35mm and the 50mm lenses. I did not use the 50mm in the beginning because I was a little shy and then I said to myself ‘you have to lose that feeling’, but the more I pushed myself to use those lenses, the more I saw the difference it made in my work.

Q.  What techniques do you use to obtain the piece you want?
A.  Generally the first step I take during the beginning of the process is to create a relationship with the participants and the subject of my work. I do not directly start shooting instead I take my time and mainly search for interesting participants and then observe them. Later on, I start working further with the camera…

Q.  What is the motivation behind your choice of material?
A.  The motivation is always and will always be my deep interest in to the sociological and political forms of existence. Everything related to human behavior and most importantly differences in cultures are my motivation.

Q.  You assisted the production of a short film, Banished, can you talk a little bit about your experience?
A.  I did assist the production of Banished in addition to the photo shooting of each of the production and I can say that it was hard for me to hold the microphone and translate. I have always been interested in Turkic ethnic cultures throughout the former countries of the Soviet Union and therefore when the invitation to go to Crimea (a part of the Ukraine) came to me, the opportunity seemed perfect; it was going to be my first foreign assignment.
A British colleague of mine, a TV journalist who was working to cover the story, actually told me about the Tartar problems; she asked me if I would be interested in join her as a translator because I speak Turkish and its various dialects. We discussed about the project extensively and I realized that working on it would encourage me to proceed with my own interest in researching the personal stories of this part of the Turkic people. No longer would I have to depend just on historical books. Therefore before I went to Crimea, I had read a little about the Crimean Tartars to gather information. Meeting them personally though showed me more than I had ever known. They were Turkic but we were speaking the same language; each of them told me their personal stories. Experiencing this, with these people and seeing their dignity and hope for the future despite the existing problems affected me enormously.

Q.  Are you thinking of making your own short film?
A.  I had never thought of it until you asked, I do not really know.

Q.  Are you working on new projects currently?
A.  I recently finished a project. The new one that I am planning to start now is closely related to urbanization processes. I also did a project on urban transformation last year with a friend of mine. The purpose was to discover the effects urban transformation have on people, I am still working on it.

Q.  What are your professional ambitions and your projects for 2011?
A.  I actually try to relax this year and leave on the productions aside for a while. I plan to do two portrait series on different subjects first and then continue my urbanization effects project. I came to realize that I need to concentrate more on showing my work and this is why I have been thinking of publishing my own book.

Q.  How do you hope Pelime can help with this?
A.  I believe that Pelime will help me to meet interesting people with different and similar minds in the same time; I am happy to start out with a new community.

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