A mesmerising look

Spaustuvė KOPA

"Daffodil" by Bahadir Aksan – a mesmerising look at getting older“

It's been a few months since we last wrote about the Self Publish Riga Dummy contest and its winner Bahadir Aksan. We are happy to announce that after working closely with the designer Tom Mrazauskas and Kaunas Photography Gallery, it is now a finished project that will be first presented to the public eye in Kaunas, March 7th 2019.

We would like to share an interview that we've conducted with the author about "Daffodil":

KOPA: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Bahadir Aksan: I was born in Ankara, Turkey in 1963. I had my primary school and college education in the same city, like my university education as a civil engineer. That might be one of the reasons of my recent eagerness to visit different cities, countries and to meet different cultures. In my childhood before university, a camera is something like an inaccessible and untouchable object where fathers have the only right to take the pictures and after one or two shots, the camera was encased carefully. I can clearly remember those days, after returning back from a journey, how we excitedly wait the photofinishing of the slides which were sent to Agfa or Kodak (Germany) those days. It took us a month or so to receive the processed slides and all this operation seemed to be a more or less holy thing from the eyes of a child.

After finishing university, while doing my MSc., I started to work as a research assistant in Middle East Technical University, Ankara, in Structural Engineering Department. In the middle of Ph.D. period, I quit university life and started working in private sector as a planning engineer. To cut the long story short, after 20 years in various posts, in 2004, I established my own business with my partner and since then I am one of the two shareholders of the company which is active in construction consultancy.

Being a partner opened me a new window with more flexible working hours and with the enforcement of my wife, I attended the courses in AFSAD (Ankara Photograph Artists’ Association) in my hometown in the same year. I was rewarded as the “Photographer of the Year” at AFSAD in 2006-2007 periods as a result of “Photograph of the Month” evaluations. Then, I attended various courses, seminars, workshops and participated in various solo or group exhibitions both in Turkey and abroad.

My first (and for the moment sole) book (Our Footsteps: 1 - Oporto) was published in 2015.

K: What inspires you to pick up your camera and start a new project?

B.A: Frankly speaking, I am not a very project oriented photographer. I pick up my camera, start taking pictures and even now, like the beginning of my photography life, I just collected them in my archive and arranged them in a yearly basis. For years, they could stay in the archives, untouched. Then, after some time I started to examine my archive in order to sort out “which subjects I had photographed” or “attracted my attention”. Of course, there are some exceptions to this philosophy, but even in those projects, the very starting point is my intuition, my soul rather than my mind.
The subjects that attract my attention are rather small, unimportant, ordinary and therefore overlooked and unnoticed things, people, gestures and atmosphere of our daily life. I think you cannot find any extraordinary booming or exploding events in my photographs.

K: How did you decide to participate in the SPR Dummy contest?

B.A: For a long time, I had the idea of preparing a book which I was trying to select from my archive and which I managed to reduce to around 700 photographs. From there, with the precious advices of my designer who is also a friend of mine, Oğuz Karakütük from Ka Atölye, we selected the photographs and made the design in a very short time in order to be able to catch the deadlines of submissions of Kassel, Riga, Arles and Istanbul Dummy Book Festivals and with the same dummy; “Daffodil”, I was selected to the shortlists of three of them and won Riga. In my opinion, those festivals are very good chances for the artists who have plans to make a photobook but have limited financial sources.

Gintaras Česonis checking the proof of "Daffodil"

K: Could you tell us a little bit about “Daffodil”? When did you start this project? Did you always intend for it to become a book?

B.A.: As I told before, like others, “Daffodil” has not started as a specific project, but the main elements of its subject are always among my major interests from the very beginning of my taking pictures in a more interested and disciplined way. This project, which can simply be described as the behavior and state of being elder, is also not something very far away from me; because I lived with my mother and father very closely for a long time and now living with my mother-in-law and also even I can feel it with my dog and my cat. It is a state and a situation of the soul; cannot be considered as bad or good, but has components like loneliness, emptiness, still some happiness, commitment of life and much of sorrow. Also, I am at the beginning of this period in my life as well, so to empathize is not too difficult for me.
Coming back to your question for the intention of preparing a book; yes, not only for this subject, but like many other projects of mine, I have always the intention to make books, mainly for two reasons: first one, I believe that a book is the best and the most permanent way of achieving to show and share your photos and the second, I love touching something physically real; like a print, like a page or cover of a book rather than seeing them on my computer’s screen.

K: Can you tell us about the process of choosing the materials (such as papers and finishing) for the book and design choices?

B.A.: Indeed, process is under continuation for the moment together with Kaunas Gallery and Kopa Printing House, so, these are not decided yet for the book. However, for the dummy, I tried to choose a cover textured as rough as possible in order to give the deep face lines and a color resembling the pale skin color of old people. I use an uncoated and a highly textured paper inside to fade the color palette with the same reasoning.

K: What advice would you give to someone just starting their career as an artist?

B.A.: I think there is not a single way and therefore there is not a single advice. Every person has a different character and varying situations and has a different way of dealing with the subjects. So, I do not want to overstep my bounds by giving an advice, instead, I can only say that being patient is a good key for me to deal with the problems.