Photography in Turkey

Refik Akyüz, Serdar Darendeliler

DutchCulture, 2019

Turkey has a long but uneven history with photography. There was a very important studio photography tradition that was established in parallel with Europe in the 1850s, but this was interrupted when the demographics changed due to the policies

implemented during World War I and the transformation of the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic in the 1920s. During the Ottoman Empire, most of the prominent photographers were Armenians and Greeks, but the declining population of these ethnic groups after the 1920s created a significant gap in the photography field that wasn’t easily filled.

From the beginning of the Republic era until the last quarter of the 20th century, photography – with the exception of a few important names – was not a well- appreciated medium and it lacked strong institutionalised bodies. However, the photography scene has dramatically changed in the past 20-25 years due to the intro- duction of institutions both large and small, the establishment of new photography departments, an increase in international collaboration and the openness and passion of new generations for establishing international connections.

This text is going to analyse the current contemporary photography scene in Turkey, focusing mainly on the first two decades of the 21st century, while looking for the connections with its past, emphasising the roles of the multitude of agents such as institutions (museums, galleries, associations, project offices) and individuals (artists, writers, teachers, curators and gallerists) who strive to promote photography. The text will try to give a detailed summary of, and a multi-layered perspective on the subject.

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