"You can see neither a worn expression nor a mask on the faces of people on the subway," says Walker Evans, "Even in bedroom mirrors, you cannot find such naked faces." In the first quarter of the 1900s, cameras became small enough to be carried by hand, and the sensitivity of photographic films increased. This change frees the photographer from closed studios, large equipment, long shooting times: The whole world has now become the photographer's studio. In his 40-year career, Walker Evans makes the widest use of the possibilities of this great studio, from the back streets of Chicago to the burglar at his home, from the fields he reached with the FSA project to the car cemeteries.
In 1938, he moved his camera to the New York subway line.
He has tactics to capture those bare faces in their most natural and intimate form: He covered the chrome parts of his 35 mm Contax camera with black shoe polish. He wears the camera around his neck and puts on his coat. It manages the shutter from the pocket with the corded remote that extends through the sleeve of the coat; the lens of the camera must be content with the part it sees between two buttons. In this project, which he carried out for about three years and named "Many are called", he often takes his friends with him to reduce the possibility of being noticed. Again, such a companion, Helen Levitt, will soon sign her own 'subway portraits' project.
Even though Evans dreamed of becoming a writer all his life, his photographs surpass his text. In his 40s, he starts teaching graphics and photography at Yale Art School. He teaches photographers of the next generation such as Diane Arbus and Robert Frank. Until his death on April 10, 1975, he produces photography projects for many magazines, primarily Fortune and Life. Ordinary persons, ordinary places, and ordinary objects of the kind we encounter in Steinbeck novels are considered worthy of photography for Evans even in his most ordinary moments.
Although he frequently encountered photographers, especially American Formalists, who tried to emphasize the artistic side of photography, his works are ironically exhibited today in many museums such as The Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago.Close
Wright Morris (1910-1998) is an American writer who won many awards for his novels, especially in the 1950s, but his writings were not well received by the general audience. For this reason, his books have been categorized as "the most honored and least read novels" by critics such as Gail Crump and Tony Hilfer. Before becoming an award-winning writer, in the early years of his writing, Morris presented The Inhabitants (1946) and The Home Place (1948) texts with photographs he took, but did not repeat this technique except for the 1968 book God's Country and My People.
Although he thought and wrote a lot about photography, his photographer identity was overshadowed by his writing. After his death, first his texts on photographs and then his photographs were published in a book, and these texts and photographs attracted considerable attention. In particular, his photographs in the 1948 book Home Place were found by many photography critics and historians to be compared with the works of the greatest photographers of that period such as Dorothea Lange and Edward Weston.
Photographs taken by Wright Morris at that time, along with pieces from his novels and essays, were exhibited at the Henri-Cartier Bresson Foundation in Paris last year. The exhibition was planned to meet with the audience in different cities of Europe starting from Amsterdam this year, but for obvious reasons, the exhibition in Foam-Amsterdam was gathered before the end date, and it seems that other planned exhibitions will not be held this year.Close
If a photograph is to communicate its subject in all its intensity, the relationship of form must be rigorously established. Photography implies the recognition of a rhythm in the world of real things. What the eye does is to find and focus on the particular subject within the mass of reality; what the camera does is simply to register upon film the decision made by the eye. We look at and perceive a photograph, as we do a painting, in its entirety and all in one glance. In a photograph, composition is the result of a simultaneous coalition, the organic coordination of elements seen by the eye. One does not add composition as though it were an afterthought superimposed on the basic subject material, since it is impossible to separate content from form. Composition must have its own inevitability about it.
In photography there is a new kind of plasticity, the product of instantaneous lines made by movements of the subject. We work in unison with movement as though it were a presentiment of the way in which life itself unfolds. But inside movement there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance. Photography must seize upon this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it.
The photographer's eye is perpetually evaluating. A photographer can bring coincidence of line simply by moving his head a fraction of a millimeter. He can modify perspectives by a slight bending of the knees. By placing the camera closer to or farther from the subject, he draws a detail – and it can be subordinated, or he can be tyrannized by it. But he composes a picture in very nearly the same amount of time it takes to click the shutter, at the speed of a reflex action. Sometimes it happens that you stall, delay, wait for something to happen.
Sometimes you have the feeling that here are all the makings of a picture – except for just one thing that seems to be missing. But what one thing? Perhaps someone suddenly walks into your range of view. You follow his progress through the viewfinder. You wait and wait, and then finally you press the button – and you depart with the feeling (though you don't know why) that you've really got something. Later, to substantiate this, you can take a print of this picture, trace on it the geometric figures which come up under analysis, and you'll observe that, if the shutter was released at the decisive moment, you have instinctively fixed a geometric pattern without which the photograph would have been both formless and lifeless.
Composition must be one of our constant preoccupations, but at the moment of shooting it can stem only from our intuition, for we are out to capture the fugitive moment, and all the interrelationships involved are on the move. In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer's disposal is his own pair of eyes. Any geometrical analysis, any reducing of the picture to a schema, can be done only (because of its very nature) after the photograph has been taken, developed, and printed – and then it can be used only for a postmortem examination of the picture. I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass.
If you start cutting or cropping a good photograph, it means death to the geometrically correct interplay of proportions. Besides, it very rarely happens that a photograph which was feebly composed can be saved by reconstruction of its composition under the darkroom's enlarger; the integrity of vision is no longer there. There is a lot of talk about camera angles; but the only valid angles in existence are the angles of the geometry of composition and not the ones fabricated by the photographer who falls flat on his stomach or performs other antics to procure his effects.Close
One of the most frequently asked questions to me is the meaning of the name (or nickname) ‘Agrapher’. Many people also have predictions. A-grapher, to mean a graphic designer? Or it sounds like there is a reference to the word photographer? Actually, that's not the case, and there is another relationship between the emergence of the name Agrapher and my beginning to photography.
I am the child of a literature teacher and I have always seen this as one of my greatest chances in life to be born into a house with hundreds of books in it. I started reading at an early age, and until I was about 30 years old, books occupied the greatest place and time in my life. In parallel with my passion for reading, I also had a love of writing and expressing myself by writing. My first diary that I can access is from the summer of 1990. Until my thirties, I kept diaries, exchanged letters with my friends, wrote stories, novels, literary reviews, scripts, translations… I tried to write something in every field you can think of. With the Internet, blogs and their derivatives first appeared, then facebook, twitter… the story you know. I always thought that the best thing I could do was to write. When it comes to presenting a subject in writing, sending an important e-mail or writing a promotional text for an event at my workplace, that job automatically remains for me. Compared to the past, I actually have a hard time writing, but I still do my best when given a task.
Compared to the past, I said… As I just mentioned, 7-8 years ago, reading and writing had a huge space in my life. But the time, is it called the break or rupture moment, I can't fully describe that moment… but it was around the summer of 2013, I realized that I could not write as before. Just as I no longer enjoyed writing, the quality of what I was writing was turned upside down. I realized that I could hardly write in a week a report or a news item that I would normally write in two hours. There was a great tension due to not being able to write. On the one hand, at that time, at my PhD, in other areas of life, and on social media, everyone expected me to write something. At that time, I was also a copywriter for Turkish Intelligence Foundation; I had a compilation book to prepare, several articles to write… unfortunately I could not write, I just stayed looking at the computer screen for days.
Then I changed the names of all my blogs, social media accounts on the internet to Agrapher. Why Agrapher? Actually, there is a disease called agraphia. It means the loss of the ability to write. Although there is no problem with your hand, fingers, and apparently with your mind, you may be deprived of the ability to express your name in written form, that ability to abstract. Mine was not such a situation; but I approached in a pejorative way and started using the name Agrapher, which means "I lost my ability to write".Close
With this nickname, I started to fill many areas where I used my pen, especially social media, with old magazine newspaper clippings, songs, artworks I love, photographs I love and film frames. Other things diminished over time, and my twitter account in particular has turned into a tiny archive of photographers' photos from the middle of the last century. For example, I was putting photos taken by different photographers on the same street in Paris or on the same square in Florence. Or I was enlarging and adding a detail of a photo. It is as if I was trying to show what has changed and deteriorated in my own way by putting two separate photographs taken by a photographer 20 years apart… At that time, a “technological miracle” occurred and I had my i-phone 4.
I took my first photos with my i-phone in Turin, where I went for job and then in Rome. May 2014.
Then I started sharing photos I took on the phone on social media. A few months later I bought my first Canon camera. There was also a campaign where I bought my camera: They gave a basic training course from Ka Training Center. But in the few weeks until that course started, I learned a lot of things, especially on Youtube. In the second week of the course, my instructor in Ka said “Ahmet, you are bored, you know the things that I teach, don't go on if you want” and my official photography education remained there. Of course, I continued to learn something on Youtube and Internet. I also bought a few books, but I was more interested in photography theory, sociological or political studies of photography than books on photography. (If you're curious, I have a good online archive on this topic. English books. I can share it on mail.)
My Canon camera helped me learn the basic logic of photography, exposure, framing, and the fundamental shooting techniques. I knew at first what kind of pictures I wanted to take, but I tried everything with that camera. I shot landscapes, I shot macros, I shot objects, I tried something abstract, and although I don't like to share, I continue to shoot this kind of shot, it seems like it strengthens my eyes or my hand somehow. But I knew the fact: I didn't need that big Canon camera to take the pictures I wanted. A few months after Canon, I bought an Olympus, small, mirrorless camera. I found this by searching the Internet: It had to be light, the lens on it had to be relatively good and it had to record in raw-format. That Olympus was the one that best suited these features and I got it.Close
As I said, my Twitter account had become a micro photo archive, and I shared the photos of Andre Kertesz, Brassai, Robert Doisneu and Helmut Newton there the most. Black and white photographs taken mostly on the streets of European metropolises…
And if we leave out a few works of each - these are photographers who are in some kind of an harmony with metropolises; not with indigent children on the streets or homeless people, not those who live in ghettos. They had photos focused on the most Parisian people in Paris or the most Fiorentines living in Florence. In a sense, the photographs of people who are also in harmony with their city and even add a beauty to the city they live in. In the time these photographers lived, many other powerful photographers emerged from the post-war years to the 1970s. Again, there are many names such as Dennis Stock, Vivian Maier who took black and white photographs and mostly took the street and street life as decorations. But somehow, I felt closer to the first group I counted, at least their photos impressed me more.
As the case for photographers of that time, the thematic contrast between modernization and poverty-deprivation, between innovation and old age, between technology and primitiveness provides a lot of material for those who now take pictures, especially those who choose to take pictures on the street. For example, go to the Ankara castle on the weekend, a huge machine around everyone's neck or a phone in their hands… you will see that they are in a hurry to capture the pictures of the indigent children living in that area. The children also got accustomed to this situation: they even started to ask money after posing. And Balat in Istanbul has also turned into a huge photography studio. I come across these photographs very often, especially on Instagram. We see a similar approach in photographs taken in Cuba or Far East. I don't want to be misunderstood, there are some very good ones among these photos, there are serious buyers of these photos, they take a huge amount of ‘like’s on social media, and of course, anyone can take any photo he or she wants.
But the photos I want to take and still try to take are not like that. I want to somehow capture the people who represent that city, the life there, in a powerful and beautiful way, while I take photos of people from the streets of the cities I travel around. In this sense, unlike those who take photographs in the castle, Balat or Cuba I just mentioned, I like to take pictures of the people of the place I visit, not the hard incompatibility between the general conditions and the individual conditions.