We had a chat with Mert Can Tekin, AKA eyvahblues about his photos, surrealism and experimental arts. Mert Can’s photos, whose motto is "Surrealism and experimentation are a journey of discovery for me, as well as a search" become different art pieces with the addition of illustrations.
Hello! Welcome to the Lomography magazine, can you introduce yourself to our community?
Hi, I was born in Istanbul on a fall evening twenty-three years ago. I spent my childhood in a small town in Istanbul. Van Gogh had never whispered in my ear at that time, but I remember many times I had experienced a starry night. I remember the first fifteen years in the world like Hayao Miyazaki's films. I watched Chaplin movies shown on TV as if they were cartoons. I was no longer a child and wanted to study in a quiet city when the trees around the house I was growing bought apartments and skyscrapers. I was seventeen years old, I was supposed to make a choice; I settled in İzmir for university. When I settled in İzmir, it started to become more common to be by myself and I did not want to ask questions. As I got acquainted with new people and shared my thoughts with people who are questioning life like myself; I actually realized I was not that alone. I have had a lot of time to read, write, chalk, photograph, and think about all this in the city I live in. In this flow were the writers of the cosmos, such as John Berger, Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes, Samuel Beckett and Albert Camus. I was also influenced by Tarkovsky, Kieslovski, Jarmusch, Antonioni, Bergman and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Later, I came across photographers such as Josef Koudelka, Duane Michals, Andre Kertesz and Robert Doisneau. At the age of nineteen, I founded the Association of Art Directors and Scriptwriters with my friends. We have closed the association within two years because we did not get much interest. Before I started photographing, I was interested in cinema. Later on, my friend had a Zenith analog camera, which was left in his hand. We thought, "Why do not we take pictures?"
Now I am twenty-three years old, living in İzmir, I study university on media and communication. I wanted to study fine arts, but it did not work out. This has given me ambiance and time to work independently. I am interested in literature, music, cinema and painting, especially photography. As time passed I got my hands on different analogue cameras. The adventure that started with Zenith continues with Minolta, Yashica, Sprocket Rocket and Pentax. Texture and color, like the essence of analog photography. I always prefer to use expired films. I'm working on surreal, experimental photographs and adaptations. Recently I have been thinking about a new concept in photography: Photodrawhy: It consists of the words 'Photo', 'draw', 'why'. This concept is a perception that combines photography with painting: both abstract and concrete, both virtual and real. I did my first work this year with the adaptations of Henri Matisse, Emil Nolde and Rene Magritte, the line drawings we performed with Elif, the punctum-collage works and the analog photo series I created from the characters I designed with pastel dyes.
Do you remember what your first camera was? How were your first photos?
When I was 5-6 years old, I got my hands on an analogue Kodak camera. I took photos of my family during the summer vacations we took, along the sea shores. Back then, it was a sacred thing for me not to be able to see my photos for quite some time. Because waiting for the film to be developed, to touch the physical prints made it all the more valuable. I still open our old family albums to look at. Then I got a Zenit camera. Because of my childhood experience, I started to shoot right away. Henri Cartier-Bresson has a famous quote: “Your first 10000 photos are your worst.”
How did your interest in surrealism and experimental arts began? What was it that made you go after it?
Surrealism and experimentation are a journey of discovery for me, as well as a search. It points to the spiritual point that appears in all the contrasts, there is no self, nothingness at this point. When I started to interpret my world, when I looked through the view of the camera, I came across a silhouette with music notes on it, which seemed to invite me for the eternity of the photograph.
Do you have any techniques that your prefer?
The first technique I used was the multiple exposure technique. I was wondering how I could overwrite the images that appeared in my mind. Then I tried punctum technique with different objects like balloon, violin, and cat hat. I added sketch drawings drawn by Franz Kafka in his book to photographs I took. Then, the idea was to add line characters into the photo. I love working collectively rather than working alone. I came to Istanbul with airplanes when this idea was taking shape. I talked with Elif in Kadıköy, and I mentioned that adding the cartoon characters into the photo might be nice. We went to work immediately. Now, when I taking the photo, I am already imagining drawing the line characters in the frame. To give life to these characters in the photo, to think that they are already there, was a new technique from my own perspective. I worked on the storyboard technique. Then, using the collage technique, I came up with the idea of adding characters I designed with pastel dyes onto a real scene. Then I made the essays on the print by cutting out the characters of the painters whom I wanted to adapt to the photo. I studied cutting-mowing techniques with Henri Matisse and Emil Nolde characters. I realized how similar the pastel colors and the analogue look are to each other, and how the colors complement each other.
There are many techniques that I want to test in the future. I want to do surreal work with the Splitzer by getting a Diana camera in the near future. Another technique I would like to use at the same time is to create surreal characters with light painting. There's also a new technique I've discovered recently. If I don't have a camera with me, I am taking that moment in my mind. When I arrive at the study room, I try to understand the abstract emotions at that moment.
The collages and hand painted photos look like they are the result of a very laborsome painting process. How do you compose new photo series?
In general, I plan all my photography work before I put the film in the camera. I decide what colors to work with the films and try to get that film in expired form if possible. We are trying to design the character drawings as unlimited as possible. At the same time, I take care to preserve the calm of my life. I often take little care to sleep, eat less and talk less. I think that what we think affects our views and our point of view. I do not believe that a musician tuning an instrument can reflect any emotion or thought as long as it does not chronicle its life. This applies to all art branches and philosophies. For photography, however, if a photographer can not adjust the settings of life and point of view, regardless of whether the shutter / aperture and iso settings are dominant, it means that the emotion can not fully feed or remain weak. It was a lot when I felt weak when taking pictures of myself. Focusing only on that main focus is like a kind of meditation. Before we put our thoughts in gold, what is the direction of our life's progress, can we become that feeling, we should think. Before producing, I try to abstract myself from this world as much as possible and to avoid the manipulations of life to reflect the planet of emotion that I want to be the same. The careful arrangement of the collage work and drawings takes place entirely as a result of the mirror neuron collision. After you have produced an idea, I try to put it into practice and go on another idea. At this point, the formation of new series of photographs is actually hidden in the previous series. At the same time, work is progressing more smoothly.
Do you have a favorite photo from the series so far? What sets this apart from the rest of the series?
That's a good question. One of the works I see as a favorite is the photographic work I have adapted to a set of seats that I encountered in nature, the characters of Music pictured by Henri Matisse in 1910. The other is a photo study of the characters of Dance painting drawn by Henri Matisse in 1910, dancing in front of a club in the nature with Elif's drawing adaptation. Finally, it is a portrait of a street musician playing a violin on a quiet Sunday morning. The subtle line that distinguishes them from other works is the absurdity of adaptation of 'music', the happiness of adaptation of 'dance' and the feeling of the man who plays the violin.
Who or what inspires you in your work?
All the things that make me feel like I'm living in the void are inspiring. Reflections, shadows, colors, lines, light breaks, and details ... At the same time, it is simplest to just sit on a tree's body for hours, to focus on the tail movements of a cat and to think of my presence on the planet. It's Carl Jung. I also get inspiration from the music I listen to. The film is a magic, music is the smoke of the film ...
What are your interests outside of photography?
I'm interested in music other than photography. I enjoy exploring new music. I am preparing Blues / Jazz and Experimental music sets. I have an internet radio called 'Musical Elevator'. I present my music on two radio programs called 'Neptun' and 'Nightwalker'. At the same time, I do midi-keyboard and beginner-level bass guitar work. We are planning to produce a project called 'Zapt Project' in İzmir to produce electronic interactive experimental music. I also like to design tiny stories, making writing, walking an action, keeping me healthy throughout the day, and finally making pastel paintings, drawings. Painting is a kind of therapy.
How does photography, especially surrealism and experimental style, affect the outlook on the world?
The world, because of its shape, is a surreal planet. An experimental work outcome is perfectly designed. People are the pixels of this planet. When you look at the photos taken from a distance, you are in a pale blue shade. At the same time, the world looks like a pixel in the entire universe. Both the world and man are the fine details of this great photograph. Here, the special position of man in cosmic order is important. Although we do not appear pixel by pixel, it is the big picture that makes up all of this cosmos. As we grasp this and imagine it, our perspective on the developments in our surroundings changes. The objects we think influence our opinion. He realizes the experiment in life, we are smiling. Reflections, shadows, colors, lines, light breaks, and details stand out in front of us and our photos. Taking a photo is looking at the world from a third person point of view.
Do you have any future projects?
I am excited about future projects. I plan to continue with the 'photodrawhy' series with cartoon characters and geometric shapes by minimizing and caricaturing. Besides, it would be nice to exhibit my photo works that I have designed. The formation of new series of photographs is hidden in the previous series of photographs. There are projects that I think I will implement in the next three months. I try, I will continue to try. It was an enjoyable interview, thank you.