Photography from the Republic to Present / 1923-1995

* Professorial Dissertation, Istanbul.
The post-1980 part of this research article is published under the title of “Post-1980 Photography in Turkey” in the Post-Republic Communication Encyclopedia, 12. Vol. Istanbul, Pg.531-535


A historian, who attempts to evaluate post-Republic photography in our country, faces a number of specific problems. One of these, perhaps the most important, is the fact that the historian lacks a written source where the communication of the historian with other branches of past-oriented plastic arts is established in the dimensions of time and movements; even if there is such a source, its reality and value are also doubtful. Observations and examinations that are so little in terms of quantity reveal the post-Republican photography movement as a succession of successful revolutions as per its source. Whereas, if the developments and the facts in the process would have been examined with analytical methods, very few people could allege that progress has been made in terms of photography. Another problem is that the historian, trying to provide an objective itemization of a period by chronological sorting, either immediately attempts to be a critic or conforms to other criteria, which are entirely non-historical. In my opinion, this is one of the most important points the historian should avoid in his assessment articles directed to the past; that is to say, he should never put himself to a position of the spokesperson or even of a leader of any art movement, should not use the past to justify his own opinions. ¹
¹ LYNTON, Norbert, The Story of Modern Art, Translated by Prof. Dr. Cevat Çapan, Prof. Sadi Öziş, Second ed. 1991, pp.9

Another important point when considering the issues that ought to be taken into consideration is that in addition to the speeches aiming to signalize the identity of Turkish photography in the 80s and afterwards, emphasis has never been laid on the theoretical basis on whether or not there is an approach in Turkey, different from Western photography. Extensive and difficult research has not yet been done in our country. Such a research has been done on 19th century Indian photography and interesting results have been achieved. The research was conducted by Judith Mara Gutman with the support of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and the results of the research were collected in a book and presented to those concerned with a large exhibition. One of the extraordinary results attained by Judith Mara Gutman is that the Indian photographer has investigated the space arrangements in the Indian miniature and has been directed to obtain results that approach the Indian miniature painting, by adding sometimes collage, sometimes dense ornamentation elements to the photograph. ²
² TANSUĞ, Sezer – Türk Resim Sanatında Fotograf Kullanımına İlişkin Sorunlar (Issues Related to the Use of Photography in Turkish Painting Art), Hacettepe University Faculty of Fine Arts 1. National art Symposium: Today and Yesterday of Art in Turkey, April 1985, Proceedings, pg. 22

So, writing history or claiming to write it, is not just to give the data in the form of chronological sequences, but to make useful interpretations of the present century. While doing this, the historian is in the position of being inclusive, non-exclusionary between the past and the present, being the open-minded, unbiased.

In every historical period in which communities constantly renew themselves and undergo change, political personality, way of thinking and communication, undergo change similar to the development of social structure. Each society defines in its structure, the language of expression that reflects its own specific tradition and lifestyle as well as the era. Every innovation in the social environment, especially in the field of technology that shows an endless change and development, affects the cultural content and causes some inventions to emerge. In the 19th century the invention that initiated the 1. Industrial Revolution, that marked and even ensured the development of the post-19th century era, caused the era to be called the Optic Age, as defined by Karl Pawek, and that enlarged the dimensions of science and art, is photography. ³
³ GEZGİN, Ahmet Öner – Language of Photography, İFSAK 2. Photography Days, Panel, December 1986

Although our knowledge of how and under what conditions photography entered the borders of our country is limited, if the early 1830s when the first photography studies linked to the partnership of Nicéphore Niepce and L. J. M. Daguerre were transformed into practical applications in the west, were considered as a starting point, according to both internal and external data we know that began to be used as a technical innovation soon after that date -about twenty years- in Tanzimat reform era (I. Abdülmecid / Abdülaziz period between 1839 and 1876) and during the reign of II. Abdülhamid (1876-1909) within the Ottoman borders. However, while the West was solving the problems settled in its feudal structure and establishing its democratic institutions, due to the Ottomans’ superficial regeneration movements, the prohibition of visual representation in the Islamic religion, the difficulties of the community in communication with the west, the economic difficulties and the fact that the Ottomans could not foresee the technical developments that could result in important consequences for the future, the monopoly of using photography was left to non-Muslims within the Ottoman boundaries or to foreigners exploring the Orient, the world of exotic characters of romanticism, the fascinating memory and landscapes and of interesting experiences since the Antique Age. In this period, there is not any healthy development apart from painting trying to surpass the Ottoman miniature. Photography in the Ottoman Empire was a field a small group, usually raised, in the western culture, were working on. Due to the inadequacies of the technological structure of photography, the main objects of the works were mostly immobile subjects. At the exhibition James Robertson Photographer of Istanbul, held at the Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture in 1991, and at the exhibition At The Sweet Coasts of Asia, brought from Germany with the cooperation of the German Cultural Committee and the Agfa Fotohistorama Museum, we had the opportunity to view a section of the works from this period, wherein the document feature of the photography began to gain importance. The main theme of these two important exhibitions bringing the past to the present is the city-scape involving the shopping district, street, religious and civil architectural examples oriented to reflect the superficial life style of large cities.

The increase of studios in Istanbul –though a limited number- and in other cities, is seen after Abdullah Biraderler and generally after the 1900s.

It is useful to examine the photography movement from the Republican era to the present in three different periods.

  1. The first thirty-seven years between the years 1923 – 1960, or the pre-1960 romantic period,
  2. The interim period covering the 1960s and 1980s, when the 60s generation was assessed in the context of social reality and new reality,
  3. The last fifteen years (1980 – 1995), symbolizing the abstract expressionistic period in which both technical and aesthetic concerns gained importance, different patterns of thought found a platform for discussion.

1. The Pre-1960 or the First Thirty-Seven Years / Romantic Period / 1923 -1960

All attempts to bring innovations to society in order to reform the social structure as blind admiration for the West could not prevent the Ottoman Empire from losing power and sealing its fate. In this period when the principles and theories of the west, living reality and academia outside our country were valid; in the West the famous Nadar, who carried photography to the dimension of art, praises Abdullah Biraderler, our first photography ambassador who made us known in the west, in his article “When I Was A Photographer”. It took a long time for Turkey to send other photography ambassadors abroad after the 1900s.

In 1914, the West opened a new page that excluded traditional motifs, especially with Paul Strand, while at the same time using photography as a visual means of communication, and on the other hand, provided its multi-directional development by utilizing the artistic heritage of this tool. Whereas in our country, trying to find the answer to the question, is the photographic representation blasphemous? the absence of technological equipment and depressions have not allowed photography to open to the west, not even allowed it at least to bush out within the national framework. For this reason, the period after the 1900s is literally a completely dark period in terms of the photography movement in our country. It is conceivable that the documentation ability and the functional duty of photography have been maintained by the photographers trained at the studios of the old masters at this period. However, it will be necessary to wait for a longer period of time for photography to start to become a fact in the Ottoman period, to gain aesthetic values beyond its basic function.

The time when photography finds areas of usage as an independent tool in our country extends beyond the years of the 1920s, when a new state in political and social terms, started to emerge. In this period when the transition from the Ummah society to a nation is realized, reaching the stage of maturity can be achieved by the integration of the movement of modernity in our culture and art together with the social structure with the new state consciousness and processing and enriching it in the hands of new cultural staff, could only be possible by making entrance to the free environment established by the period of the Republic. However, the accumulations of the pre-Republic era for the identification of the document, as well as their positive influences on the formation of a harmonious environment in this respect should not be forgotten. It is a process that begins with the Republic, when the use of photography in visual communication systems and finding its field of practice, gaining wide currency, creating a language of communication fulfilling the needs of the contemporary society and transition from verbal-based communication to visual-based communication are realized in our country.

Cinema, which is a movement generated by photography in this period, is a fact that has begun to expand its field of activity in the direction of the public demand and has entered into the daily life of the society at a great extent. We can see that painting and sculpture, benefiting the most from the culture/art environment that boomed post-Republic and accelerated their development process, did not remain closed to the Western formations in this period. There is no doubt that, the starting of the Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi, i.e. today’s Mimar Sinan University (Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts) with education in 1883 and the establishment of the Museum of Painting and Sculpture the Crown prince suite of the Dolmabahçe Palace by the order of Atatürk in 1937, are the two important factors that led to the fact that painting and sculpture captured the contemporary world. It is inevitable for photography in parallel to all these developments, to initiate leaps to enter a more conscious route. When looked at from a different standpoint, Turkey’s new regime, aiming at bringing the community to the level of contemporary civilization, had to make great use of the dissemination and reproduction characteristics of the photography to transmit its cultural propaganda to the wide masses.

When the 1930s were reached, we observe that the contemporary world has surpassed the concept of impressionism being the beginning of the deconstruction of the established rules since the Renaissance and gave examples from the naturalist (naturalism) approach oriented to reflecting the external reality in light/shadow, proportions, color values and character; and that they have taken quite a long way in the direction of reality (realism) and new reality (neue Sachlichkeit) which has sprouted again from this concept, that the masters of this era went into the effort of imposing their personal talents within the boundaries of photography or by forcing its boundaries.

It will be necessary to emphasize the importance of the community centers, when evaluating the cultural environment of Turkey in 1930s from the photography point of view. Indeed, as also in other areas, the community centers are the only guiding institutions of the new era in photography. Since its inception in 1932, it has initiated a new beginning for photography by organizing courses under its roof. Ankara Halkevi (Community Center) realized the first photography contest in 1933. Ferit Celal Güven, the İçel deputy in those days, has summarized the fact of photography in the introductory article in 1935, he wrote in the first issue of the first photography magazine “Profesyonel ve Amatörün Dergisi: Foto”, only two issues of which could be published, by summarizing; “we would not be exaggerating if we say that the only thing to teach us the beauty of the country quickly is photography.” and also set forth at one point, the expectations from photography in the romantic period, that lasted until the year 1960. In this context -in a sense- together with the Republic, photography was expected to undertake the normal task as presenting the country’s beauties, and making the society conscious on this path. It is also one of the developments of the same period that the statesmen began to appear in the media. Cemal Işıksel, who captured the portraits of Atatürk with a real album quality for today, is a pioneer who started the portrait tradition of the time and took the lead of the next generations. He also has the honor of being the first photojournalist.

During the period of Cemal Işıksel, groupings around the community centers at amateur level started. This is also evidenced by the introduction of photography education to the Gazi Education Institute and Secondary School Teacher Education School, with the initiative of Şinasi Barutçu in 1937. The same years also refer to the period when the first photography organizations started to emerge. “Izmir Photography Artists Association” was established in 1945 and “Photographers Craft Cooperative” in 1946.

The fact that the first photography positions of the young Turkish Republic, which we can call the 1940 generation, are formed by those working in the field of press photography reflecting the social developments and political movements, shows that photography has stepped in our life through the press. Namık Görgüç, Sebahattin Giz, Cemal Göral, Ali Ersan, Faik Şenol and Hilmi Şahenk have played an important role in the field of press photography.

The general appearance of these years included scattered, disconnected and inadequate individual approaches apart from the small groups gathered around Şinasi Barutçu and İlhan Erkılıç. We can mention the names of Münif Fehim, Suat Tenik, Hüsnü Cantürk, İlhan Arakon, Limasollu Naci and Baha Gelenbevi, and from another group, Ihsan Erkılıç, Nurettin Erkılıç, Müeddep Erkmen, Sabit Karamani, Haluk Konyalı, Fikret Minisker, Cafer Türkmen, Ferit Can and Aziz Albek as the leading names of the post-1950 generation. Şinasi Barutçu, being one of the first students sent abroad by the state to study for professional specialization training in 1920s and the nephew of the architect Arif Koyunoğlu, who also set his heart on photography, is a photographer of this generation in terms of his activity and contribution.

The photographs of Şinasi Barutçu, who published the first photography magazine in Turkey, established in 1950 and presided the Amateur Photography Club of Turkey, TAFK until it was closed down, contain the subtle romantic feelings of the ruling community spirit of those years.

The pre-1950 generation, while on one hand emphasizing the document aspect of the photography, necessary for that period especially for the press, investigated ways of accelerating the aesthetic dimension of the photography on the other hand. Although he was not considered to be in the 1940’s generation, we should not forget Baha Gelenbevi, who worked for a long time in the field of cinema both at home and abroad, made the pioneering work of a certain phase particularly with his nude works, participated in the “IFSAK / Istanbul Photography and Cinema Amateur Club – Japanese Photography Artists“ joint exhibition with a work reproduced by photocopy in 1979, provided the settlement of FIAP (International Photography Federation) titles in our country and who was active also in the generation between 1960 – 80.

When it comes to the 1950s, we can see that human-nature, nature-nature relations directed only towards the function of exploring the beautiful and reflection, liberalization thoughts emerged after Second World War addressed to photographic works, to social problems, all are reflected on the basis of introducing our Anatolian people with all its aspects, and the definition of our culture and nature richness. The reason for the predominant nature depictions of the works in 1950s, the subjects of which were mostly selected from the rural areas, was that our photographers were influenced by painters sent to Anatolia by Atatürk’s order at the time, and also Othmar Pfershy, originally an Austrian photographer who lived in Turkey for many years. Othmar Pfershy traveled around various locations in Turkey and undertook important tasks in the establishment of the Department of Journalism Photography. Ozan Sağdıç, using the expressions as “It can be said that the photographers in Turkey learned to look at landscape from Othmar. This Austrian photographer having his signature on all the photographic works, that made the propaganda of the new Turkey in the first years of the Republic, worked respecting the tradition of rigorous framing in photographs he captured from the nature or the cities and pioneered the landscape photography in Turkey.” ⁴ praises Othmar.
SAĞDIÇ, Ozan – Yeni Fotograf Magazine, 1977, Issue: 12, pg. 16

The widespread use of portrait photography in our country is a process that started in the Republican era (1932) with the introduction of the passport photograph in our daily life and identity cards. After the 1950s, the increase in emotional and aesthetic values of the portraits, in real terms began with the pioneering of photo studios such as Kemal Baysal, Yaşar Atankazanır (Stüdyo Taç), Foto Bella, Foto Stil. However, the time when the portrait got rid of the rigid studio rules and oriented towards further mildness was at the end of the 1960s.

The process that lasted until the year 1960 is based on the efforts of establishing the aesthetic language of the new visual instrument, while demonstrating the characteristic of the photography as being a document. It is not possible to talk about artistic personality in this period.

Although the lack of infrastructure, remaining closed to the formations in the contemporary world, the lack of education are some of the distinguishing features of this era, they are at the same time, the ball of problems inherited by the post-1960 generation.

At the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s begins the time in Turkey, when the quests outside the Yeşilçam cinema found the solution in and directed towards the fact of village reality films, the social realistic period, which constituted the main theme of the post-1960 photography movement.

2. Intermediate Period or Social Realistic Period /1960 -1980

It would be useful to take a look at the situation of the plastic arts and photography that completed their process of formation in the contemporary world in the same years, before moving on to the phenomenon of photography in Turkey, which has gained a certain momentum since 1960s. In Norman Malcolm’s book “Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir (1958)”, the definition “In philosophy one feels forced to look at a concept in a certain way. What I do is suggest, or even invent, other ways of looking at it. I suggest possibilities of which you had not previously thought. … Thus your mental cramp is relieved, and you are free to look around the field of use of the expression and to describe the different kinds of uses of it…” , emphasized the beginning of the Pop movement that maintained its influence for a long time both in music and plastic arts, and of the Op-Art / Optic Art movement that lasted a short time and usually used optical images as material, both of which emerged in the 1960s in America and England at the same time but independently from each other.
LYNTON, Norbert – a.g.e., pg. 291

It has been witnessed that, from the 1960s onward, while art movements such as Pop-Art, Op-Art have brought plastic arts to a new dimension, on the other hand there has been widespread polarization between the understanding based on creating beautiful and meaningful works of art in relation with the traditional artistic understanding and the understanding that questions the art and challenges the traditional. It is very interesting that there are opinions with universal tendency / national and local tendency that show similar developments also in the field of plastic arts in our country, in the same period.

Let’s come to the assessment of the situation in the field of photography: The 1960s are a turning point for the west, due to the fact that both the technology and the areas of use are becoming widespread in the process extending from its discovery to the present day. After the Gutenberg period, with the cliché technique reaching the usability in photography, the task that the painters have undertaken until that time, is transmitted to photography. A number of photographers began to acquire photographic images that will be presented to the public without wasting time, by directing their personal views to news and events. Photography was now closer to the masses than the reality of a pattern; and thus the profession of photo-journalism was born. ⁶ On November 23, 1936, Henry Luce published the first issue of Life magazine in the United States; this is followed by the Look, published by the Lowires brothers on January 10, 1937. Under the leadership of the press, well-known names such as Kértész, Brassai, Bill Brand and Alvarez Bravo are brought into the world of photography. Magnum is founded in 1947 under the leadership of Robert Capa, Davit Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and George Rodger. Later on, with the inclusion of Ernst Haas, Werner Bischof and Elliot Erwitt, the celebrities of the streets, of the people take their places in the depths of history within the limits of social reality. The 1960s were the years when the press entered a period of crisis. Television is a big threat in this period. In 1971 Look and a year later Life stops publication. Within the same time dimension, in the context of art, photography continues its existence in Pop-Art, Op-Art, Neo-Realism and Conceptual Art.
GÜLER, Ara – Yeni Fotoğraf magazine, 1977, issue 14, p. 10

In the contemporary world, while photography followed a process parallel to the development line of plastic arts outside the field of press photography, in our country the vitality brought by the newly developed offset technique to the printing life after 1955, also revealed the necessity of photography in the press.

On May 1, 1963, Hürriyet News Agency is established and Ahmet Uran is brought to its presidency. Thereby, the importance of photography in press began to play a very active role in Turkey as a requirement of the era. This role is also the beginning of the rise of photography. The occurrence of tourism investments and therefore of touristic publications had a significant contribution to the increasing demand for photography.

The first and most influential photography ambassadors in their periods, in Turkey, have emerged from the New Generation, as for yesterday and from the Middle Generation or interim period, as for today. Ara Güler is the first name that stands out in this period. This period when the 1960s prepared the 70’s, agriculture declined due to the foreign-dependent and unbalanced growth of the industry, which resulted in intense migration from the rural areas to big cities, leading to unemployment at the highest level in the cities, completes a phase in which social realities are addressed in our country. Ara Güler, who started working as a press photographer in Yeni Istanbul Newspaper in 1950 and worked as a Magnum member for a while but cut loose from them for ideological reasons together with Ernst Haas in 1961, has succeeded conveying a social drama created in the big city by the event of immigration, lyrically and romantically. The city of Istanbul and its people (just like the foreigners in the Ottoman period, who set off to photograph the mysterious atmosphere of the Orient) dragged into a great chaos since the 1960’s were probably masterly photographed for the first time by Ara Güler.

We cannot pass-over without mentioning, among the other names of the 1960 generation, Gültekin Çizgen, who at first saw that the only way out was the modern photography, but then oriented to –as he defined- either direct or pure photography, Fikret Otyam with his photo-interviews about the countryside people, Ersin Alok known by his nature photographs based on description in his early period works and then with nature photographs where technique and aesthetic are combined, Hüsnü

Gürsel, İbrahim Zaman, Teoman Madra using photography in a designer language diversity, Mustafa Türkyılmaz whom we know from the press, Şakir Eczacıbaşı, Taçay Erdemsel with their formalist and colorist attitudes in the early periods, later with their impressionist (or picto-realistic) approaches, Sami Güner, the leading name of the calendar and tourism photography after 1960, and Güler Ertan, whom we know from her photo-graphics.

We see Şahin Kaygun in the 1970’s period. Şahin Kaygun, in his early years, presented a realistic attitude according to his time, and with his photographs in the 1970’s, he revealed an abstractive attitude.

Considering the fact that direct and more farreaching relations with the contemporary world began with impressionist and romantic in 1920s and with social realist Turkish photographers in the 1960s, the ten-year slice between the years 1970-80 will have to be seen as a natural extension of development. However, after the conclusions revealed by industrialization, the wave of migration, starting from rural areas to large settlements, the rapid development of the communication system -particularly that is based on the visual- have started radical changes in the social and cultural structure, which also accelerated a formation the roots of which extend back a little earlier than the 1970s. According to the west, experiencing concept art in the 1970s, the only issue that Turkish photographers cannot give up is the local and regional inclined images carried by the 60’s generation to the 70’s. It can be said that the period between 1970-80 is the period in which, numerically, the most production in this trend is given. Efforts of organization in Turkish photography and the proliferation of examples in this context are among the most important factors that prepare the image explosion. The associations established in this period are, TAFK / Turkish Amateur Photography Club in 1950, TAFK / Trabzon Amateur Photography Club in 1959, followed by İFSAK / Istanbul Photography and Cinema Amateurs Club established in 1959 as “Erenköy Photo Club”; in 1977 AFSAD / Ankara Photography Artists Association, BASAF / Balıkesir Art Photographers Association the same year, FOTOS / Photography Artists Association in 1978, KASK / Kocaeli Amateur Artists Association in 1979 and AFAD / Adana Photography Amateur Association in the same year. The most important feature that distinguishes the 1970s and 80s from other periods is that, after the press, the photography has taken place as an independent profession in promotional photography that serves the advertising sector. In this context, FOTOS was established to provide solidarity among the first promotional photographers.

The momentum acquired by the efforts of organization between the years 1970-80 ensured the settlement of the concept of amateur in the Turkish photography, in this context the image richness has increased, but a period of stagnation was experienced in terms of quality. In this period, many amateurs had a very short process between beginning and ending.

Among the other names of the 1960-80 period, we can mention Ibrahim Demirel, Şemsi Güner, İsa Çelik, Sabit Kalfagil, who drew attention with their activities in the 1970s, Mehmet Bayhan, who contributed greatly to the organization efforts, Reha Günay, the first name that comes to mind when we say architectural photography in our country, Hasan Kurbanoğlu with his formal and lyric approach in ballet photographs, nature masters Nusret Nurdan Eren, Sıtkı Fırat, Ergun Çağatay and M. Erem Çalıkoğlu, and Gülnur Sözmen, who maintains the amateur excitement in the dimension of professional life even today, Nazif Topçuoğlu, having a very different line for today as of the 90s when he started his career.

The reality of village, which symbolized the general tendency at the end of the 1950’s and at the beginning of the 1960’s, turned into the big city reality until 1970’s and to the suburban reality between 1970-80. We can summarize the characteristics of the social realistic period covering the years 1960-80, when the national and local tendencies are mainly observed, in 4 different categories:
ERBİL, Devrim – 50 Yıllık Türk Resmi (1923 – 1973), Akademi Mimarlık ve Sanat, Issue: 8, pg. 73

  1. The traditional and regional cultural heritage has been benefited from,
  2. An expressive language depending on national traditions and a culture is used,
  3. Works that include universal technical problems but are outside the western trends were created,
  4. Priority is given to subjective issues.

In addition to the general view of the period, personal efforts and outputs based on venturesome efforts have gained a certain identity in this period and have come to the brink of a new era at an individualistic level, with the accumulation of significant contributions from the past.

3. Last Fifteen Years or Abstract Expressionist Period /1980-1995

Since art is the expression of the missing unity between the finite and the infinite, by the act of creating, the changes and developments that the individual shows between the beginning and the time dimension reached have the characteristics of the artist personality. Artwork, on the other hand, undertakes the function of a mirror that reflects this personality along the path.

In order to be able to understand the potential of photography and art in the last fifteen years and to be able to compare it with the pre-1980 situation, first it is necessary to list the changes that the 1980s have made evident in our art and culture life. These changes are:

  1. The education process, being the most important prerequisite for fulfilling the social and artistic function of the photography, initiated as a scientific discipline by the French Academy of Sciences in the new era entered with Daguerre in the west in 1839 and took place as independent departments at the level of college in Europe of the 1960s; in Turkey, included as a lesson to the Gazi Educational Institute and the Secondary School of Teachers with the efforts of Şinasi Barutçu that is continued at Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts (or with its new name, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University), seen as the cradle of art education and training in our country with the contributions of Zeki Faik İzer, Vedat Ar, and Cafer Türkmen as of 1962, started by Vehbi Yazgan at the Applied Fine Arts High School (or with its new name, Marmara University Faculty of Fine Arts) and continued with Güler Ertan and Barbaros Gürsel in the Department of Graphic Design, attained the identity of an independent institution under the name of Photography Institute, under the roof of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Mimar Sinan University only in 1978. The 5th article of the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) Law No. 2547 accelerated the developments and started the Photography Program which gives a two-year pre-license in the Yıldız Technical University Vocational School, in the Izmir 9 Eylül University, the photography education was taken up to the four-year undergraduate level. This richness in the education process after 1980 is exciting. However, since these institutions do not have the resources to solve the problem of the academician, experiencing some problems will be inevitable in the time to pass until their own contemporary staffing positions are formed.
  2. Post-1980s is the period when an alternative line, breaking traditional patterns in the efforts to connect with the form and tendencies of the contemporary world is formed. This understanding, which connects itself to a certain artistic trend and needs new theories, was born as a reaction to the thought that was trapped in the stereotypes of the socio-realistic photography, which instead of being enriched with the individual differences in the beginning of 1980, entered into a contraction process, and viewed pessimism and misery as a social crime and reflects this to the works. Thus, a wall rose between the documentary photography based on description of the early 1980s and the avant-garde or as conceived in the literature, the experimental photography that scrutinizes the vital dimension in a different way, the presence of which is still perceived today. It is necessary to acknowledge that these contradictions, which are unnecessary in the present day, when the cultural boundaries become transparent, the walls between arts are collapsed, and the dialogues are continued, distract attention from the more important problems and divert it other directions.
  3. The private institutions’ function of supporting photography has shown a rapid development post-1980, particularly in the context of incentive awards. State support has remained quite limited in this period, as was the case in every period.
  4. Another phenomenon that determines this period is the efforts made by those who came back to country after completing their photography education abroad, for the preparation of the contemporary environment, as well as the increase of samplings from contemporary western photography within the framework of international cultural relationships. Albert Kahn’s collection exhibition at the beginning of 1980, the “A Fraction of Bulgarian Photography” exhibition of the Bulgaria Photography Club in 1983, the Bill Brandt exhibition we viewed in the scope of the 1984 Istanbul Festival, the same year Jerry N. Uelsmann exhibition, Margaret Burke-White exhibition in 1985, exhibitions by André Kertesz and Paul Capanigro in 1986, exhibitions by Herbert List, Japan International Photographic Federation and writer Jean-Jacques Lucas from Luxembourg in 1990, and the joint exhibition held by Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier Bresson, Aaron Siskind and Bela Kalman in 1991, James Robertson exhibition, the exhibition “On the Sweet Coasts of Asia brought from Germany with the cooperation of the German Cultural Committee and the Agfa Fotohistorama Museum, the exhibition of computer photographs of Toshiki Ozawa in 1993, the same year the exhibition of Chris Hinterobermaier, Pierre Gigord Collection exhibition, Paul Nadar “Central Asia Journey” exhibition in 1994, in the same year, August Sander’s “People of the 20. Century” exhibition and the exhibition of Portrait Photography in Germany (1850-1918), in the last months of 1995, can be cited.

For the 60s generation, having performed his first outputs and works in the last fifteen years of the Turkish photography in the previous years, it is impossible to talk about important and fundamental transformations except for a certain number of names. These names have maintained their usual contribution to the development process within their personal commitments.

Since photography in its general description is a visual re-presentation of multidimensional objective reality reduced to two dimensions, empiricism driven by both the theory and the viability observed in the applied field during the fifteen year period from 1980 to the present day has been realized on two different planes under the conditions of our country: In the first plane photography uses all technical, aesthetic, semantic and pragmatic opportunities of the tool by surpassing the objectivity of objective view. This plane is the abstract expressionism plane. In this expressive dimension, a trend directed towards the reconstruction of the photographic indicators at intellectual platform is observed. In this context, among the names the artworks of whom we had the opportunity to view are, Cengiz Karlıova, Şahin Kaygun, at the beginning of 80s Ahmet Öner Gezgin, who put forward the concept of experimental photography and defended its philosophy, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Emine Ceylan, Çerkes Karadağ, Kamil Fırat, Laleper Aytek, Mustafa Kocabaşı, Adnan Ataç, Gökhan Yalta, Faruk Ertunç, Maggie Danon, and Şakir Eczacıbaşı because of his recent works, Halim Kulaksız who carried the pre-1980 documentary understanding to the pictorealistic or impressionist environment, Merih Akoğul, Orhan Alptürk, Ali Rıza Akalın, Nafıa Çalımlıoğlu, Fethi İzan, S. Yalçın Çıdamlı, İbrahim Göğer, Ahmet Selim Sabuncu and many more.

The second plane is the conceptual plane based on the concept that objective reality is surpassed. Here the aim is not to reach photography, but to use it as a tool in the act of creating it. The Dadaist

approach of Şahin Kaygun in his work “In The Ancient Seas (Eski Zaman Denizlerinde) (1990)”, the works of Ahmet Öner Gezgin in the “Conceptual and Visual Images (Kavramsal ve Görsel İmgeler) 1-2 (1989/90)” exhibitions which cover the third dimension researches, Yusuf Murat Şen’s experimental works, the photo-installations realized by Cem Çetin and Hadiye Cangökçe in recent years can be assessed in this plane.

In addition to the general view of the period, the documentary photography is maintaining its activity particularly in the national and local inclined works of Nevzat Çakır, İlyas Göçmen, İzzet Keribar, Mehmet Kısmet, Bülent Özgören, Yusuf Tuvi, Sedat Tosunoğlu, İlteriş Tezer, Selçuk Kundakçı and Sarkis Baharoğlu, forming the group FOG.

We can summarize the characteristics of the abstract expressionist period covering the years 1980-95, when the universal tendency is mainly observed, in 4 different headings:

  1. Utilized the universal cultural heritage.
  2. Was dependent on universal common values and used a common expressive language
  3. To remain faithful to the art categories of the west.
  4. Stylistic problems are prioritized.

I hope that the coming years will not be the continuation of the unconcerned atmosphere that has been experienced in the last five years.

December 1995


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  • Visuals of Şinasi Barutçu, Othmar Pferschy, Ara Güler, Sami Güner, Hasan Kurbanoğlu are taken from the archive of Seyit Ali Ak.
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