Interpretation of Photographs In Lieu of Dreams

Şener Soysal
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We were very excited to see the projects of 10 people and then meet on a raki table after our conversation in Ka Atölye within the scope of "Look What I've Brought You" in January 2014. At night, we walked towards the warmth of the house we would be hosted without bothering the shivering cold of Ankara. Throughout the whole day, both the event and people's excitement in photography thrilled us beyond our expectations.

Our host Oğuz told us "I will show you something" and started setting meticulously printed photographs I guess sized 10x10 cm on a coffee table one after another. I was really impressed by the language of those photographs. There were moors, some were vast. I guess it was because I was born and raised on the lands which my father used to say "God created us here not to leave the earth desolated" those vast moors...And in some isolated trees, in one a butterfly...Surreal landscapes on the other hand, reflections, scalds, the texture...And an old man sleeping like he will never wake up. I also feel I am in some dream when I am looking at those photographs.


This text is an indicator of what I saw was not a dream. In fact, it can be read as an interpretation of photographs in lieu of dreams. Besides, even though I came across Oğzu Karakütük's series "Delta" at midnight, you, the readers of this text, could have encounter it in "Editions 4" exhibition in Elipsis Gallery or in Mamut Art in 2015 or maybe in Istanbul Modern. Even if you are new to his works it makes you lucky!

"Delta" literally means a fertile land formed at the mouth of a river where it empties into a body of water. The residues accumulated from where the river rises till it reaches the sea subside with the slowing down of the flow, and they form a fertile land. This concept is a part of the process Oğuz progressed when he was working on this piece, the narrative he created and its outcomes as a whole. Also, the project can be seen as a visual strata incorporated into what Oğuz gathered on life.

Although the series "Delta" is about signs on the existence of humans, it still consists of photographs which give a surreal feeling. Many things like gray hills proceeding one after another towards infinity, fields with only a handful of trees, dirt roads, telegraph poles, unique caves are all elements of these photographs. And although these are things that are familiar to us, their reverberations in "Delta" photographs are nothing of the kind. My favorite example is the photograph of the trees planted in the form of a circle in front of vast gray hills. It shows me that there is an owner of a place in the middle of this unattended space, and it also makes me question why this round area is enclosed within this space. There is something about that place I cannot quite put my finger on. Likewise, the photo of the covered massive bulk seen through the trees is another surreal element. Even if I conceive the reality lying behind the cover is a harvester, I cannot be sure, I go crazy thinking maybe it is an interesting space craft. And I also should tell about the impression the photo where lots of spot lights are reflecting in a circular manner leaves. Its tones and the impeccability of the forms as if they are built, thrills me.

Surely, one shouldn't see these photos as landscape images involving surreal elements or documentary photos. For they never aim at aestheticizing the landscape nor documenting some place. On the contrary, it is more accurate to describe them as surreal photographs embodying landscape elements. After all, Oğuz just followed the ways and the roads his instincts take him to somehow, composedly, both inside and outside the moors.

In a conversation I had with Oğuz before I wrote this essay, I asked him how much he gets into contact with people in his journeys and I got the answer "Almost never." So, I consider this was a journey in himself, a journey he took alone and happened solely upon nature, and as a result the composure of the photographs reflect his personal characteristics. The reason I asked this question was the fact that I find the quotation used in the text and the old man who appeared twice in the photographs as lying behind a tree, and that I try to find a clue as to the reality of this.

The photograph of the old man sleeping with a smile in his face, feels like it belongs to various tales, dreams and quotations. Maybe that's why I have a strong familiar feeling. In Oğuz's text, it says that quotation is from Hulki Dede and it reads as: "Do you know, nature doesn't tell, that's why we hear it." I thought the man in the photo was Hulki Dede and after saying these words to Oğuz, with the peace of having the say and the one to share, he fell asleep listening to nature's lullaby. However, as I said, Oğuz didn't get into any contact with anybody, so I was wrong. Neither Hulki Dede said these words after he woke up nor Oğuz dared to wake him up. (Of course, I am the liar of Oğuz. I also believe this old man can sleep for centuries just like in tales or in the myth of "seven sleepers," like if I go there now, I will find him sleeping there, and that he really is Hulki Dede. In fact, maybe Oğuz is the owner of these words but with all his naivety he just ascribed this figure of speech to an imaginary character.)

When I let my stream of consciousness to take over, I find myself thinking about various stories about the photographs in "Delta." I guess, that was just what Oğuz intended as well. The photographs which are reflections of his experiences throughout the "Delta" process, offer different experiences to the viewer as well and come to conceive other stories within their surreality within different strata. Just as we see in various civilizations, they follow and mimic the fertile river; they spring, they flow and overflow, they calm down, join and share.

You are just reading the last words from a compelling writing process in which I realize once more the need to write in a sincere way without forestalling the work, and serious way without lagging behind it, when one is writing about some work of dear friend. I feel the need to end my essay which I began by fitting the naivety into a hello, with naivety after a confession about its uneasiness. Dearest İpek Çınar whom I met in person on the same day I saw Oğuz's photographs, said something that summarized all when we were talking about this essay: "Orhan Cem Çetin has this statement: 'A photograph doesn't convey meaning to someone, it is that person who conveys meaning to the photograph.' The notion in 'nature doesn't tell, that's why we hear it' is exactly this."