Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

To everybody’s relief the great Sultans-Spam of 2011 is nearing it’s end. All in all there was an accumulation of over 40 inches in Facebook entries, blogposts, postcards and emails in January alone. More than 3 times the average.

The good news is that the exhibit finally opens tonight. The images are hung (hehe), the white wine is warmed and the red wine is chilled, for that authentic art opening feel. I even had my prerequisite nightmares about another blizzard tonight or nobody showing up just for the heck of it, in which case I hereby solemnly swear to never be on Facebook again. Never. Ever.

The production of the show turned out to be more fun than I had expected. A big part of that was the help of dedicated professionals like David and Hashem at Printspace (printing), and George and Eric at Digital Plus (mounting). Another big part was the help of friends like (fellow photographers) Myriam Babin who schlepped and advised at pretty much every stage of the process, and Neil Beckerman who flouted every child labor law and made his seven year old daughter Lindsay help us hang the show for free.

I’m also thankful to the bloggers (always lovely) Julie Grahame at a.Curator, Stefan Falke, Fotocare, and the mighty Jackanory for spreading the word, alongside all the good people who sultanized Facebook with reposts and such.

In any case tonight’s the night. Be there, near Washington Square.

The Sultans will be on show at NYU’s Deutsches Haus from January, 28th to February, 25th, 2011.

The opening reception will be on Friday, January, 28th from 6 to 8 pm.

Deutsches Haus at NYU
42 Washington Mews
New York, NY 10003


Hours of operation:
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

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First things first before it’s too late: Happy new year to all you faithful readers (and of course to the faithless ones, too).

The Heavy Light is getting a slightly tardy start into 2011 partly because I’m still a little comatose from eating a ton of Janet and Joe’s christmas cookies (mmmh) but even more importantly because The Sultans are getting their own show at the Deutsche Haus at NYU.

Visitors can admire the glorious geezers in spectacular printed matter and in majestic sizes up to 30×40 inches; jaws will drop, i-phone affected minds might get blown!!!(!)

This will be my first solo show and as I’m writing my own hyperbole (any PR person looking for an internship?) I’m also a wee bit nervous about figuring out the whole process, especially about recouping the costs of the show or (dream big alert) turning a profit with it.

Over the years I’ve purchased a nice little collection of art but my continuing problems with buying other peoples’ work are that I have limited real estate for it, that it’s hard to come up with the money for something striking, and that I’m not sure what to do with it in the long run.  I have some paintings, drawings and photographs on my walls that I dearly love (the art, not the walls) but after looking at them for years and years I wouldn’t mind a change.   It’s pretty much impossible to sell the pieces since most of them are not collectables from big name artists, throwing them away would make me a bad person, and storing them (which is what I do) is a drag in New York.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:  Renting art work.  I know it’s done on a corporate level, so maybe it could work on a private level as well.  Instead of selling a framed and mounted print for let’s say $1200 you could rent it for the first year at $400.  If you really like it you rent it for another year ($350), if you really really like it you extend the rental ($325) and after 4 years and $1400 it’s yours.  It’s a little more than buying outright but this way you can be sure it really goes well with the sofa.  For the same price as purchasing one image you could also exchange it after one year for another Sultan and then for another.  After that you could hang up a picture of a naked lady and look at that for a while.

So, now my question to you dear reader is:

Does renting art sound like a good idea to you, or more to the point, would you (yes, you) personally ever rent a piece of art for your home or as a gift?

Please respond via the comments on this site or if you’re the shy and private type I would love to get an email, a call , a letter or a visit, too.

Thanks for helping me out with this.

Mark your calendars.  Remember:  Jaws will drop.

The Sultans-recent photographs

Deutsches Haus at NYU
42 Washington Mews
New York, NY 10003

Opening Reception: Friday, January 28th, 2011, 6 to 8 PM

on view:
January 28th, 2011 – February, 25th 2011

Hours of operation:
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

The Sultans-Part 1
The Sultans-Part 2
The Sultans-Part 3
Coda: The Sultans get their Name

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We finally ended our road trip through Turkey in Istanbul where I found the name for this project.

At the Topkapi Palace is an impressive portrait gallery of the original Sultans, the Ottoman rulers of yore, and there was just no denying the resemblances of faces and postures between the subjects of the old paintings and the men we had just photographed.

Like most people who are groovy with Democracy, I’m not big on the concept of royalty, as a matter of fact it creeps me out quite a bit.   However, many of the common men we photographed had a quiet dignity that came across as noble.  The more I thought about it the more I had fun envisioning the new Sultans as working farmers, shepherds and fisherman instead of inheritors of power and wealth.

These paintings were often done by Italian artists like Bellini whose portrait of Sultan Mehmet II is at the top of this page.
As we were walking through Istanbul’s great bazaar in the following days we found simple hand drawn copies of these portraits on pages cut out of old books. We bought one of  Mehmet II, a ruler famous for conquering Constantinople, an event that eventually marked the divide between the middle ages and (more) modern times.

Another portrait we purchased was of AbdulHamid II, who was one of the later Sultans.  He was not exactly known for his skillful governing, but rather for escaping dozens of attempts on his life. He was also such a cruel, murderous ruler that he earned himself the nick name “The Red Sultan”. But who can stay mad at a guy wearing a fez. I know I can’t.

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Second day:

After Cappadocia we traveled on to the southern coast where we stayed in a little village named Cerali. We asked Ali, the owner of the pension we stayed at, if he could recommend a local helper and he volunteered to do it himself. After walking around Cerali for a day we got the strong impression, that old men were in short supply and Ali explained to us that the older population leaves the sea side for the mountains during the summer, but that he knew where to find them. After a few days of swimming and lounging, Susie, Ali and I made for the hills. We climbed about 1600 meters ( 5250 ft) during a 45 minute drive which led to some nervous giggles amongst the non-locals.

The first people we met on the mountain top were Mehmet and his wife, who graciously invited us for tea in their “summer shack” before we started setting up.

Field Editing Station:

As our shoot with Mehmet was winding down, we saw 2 gentlemen drive by in a pick-up truck. Tied up in the back was a stately billy goat. Ali flagged down the car and asked Yusuf and (another) Ali if they would have their portraits taken. Without any questions or hesitation the two got out of the cab and climbed on the cargo bed where they immediately started posing with their (very impressive) angora goat.

I snapped a few frames with my Canon G10 and was seriously considering bringing the lights over for this scene, but I quickly decided against it. I usually try to start with the stuff that’s most important to me especially when I shoot “real” people. You always have to expect a short attention span and if you don’t get what you want in the beginning you might not get it at all.

Shooting on that mountain was one of the highlights of this trip. We would have never found this place on our own and the people we met during the shoot were interesting, gracious and very hospitable. At it’s best photography is a door into another world that you would not find without it. Plus: Another great thing was that they did their own styling.

The Sultans-Magcloud Magazine

The Sultans-Issuu

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I’m always fascinated by how some ideas percolate in the back of one’s mind before they find the right outlet.

I took these 2 portraits in 2007 during a stock production in India (more about this in a future post) and even though I liked what I was getting during the shoot, I didn’t think too much off them until I got home. Without really knowing why, I kept being drawn to these 2 images in edit after edit.

I printed them up and taped them to the wall next to my desk where I kept an eye on them for about 2.5 years.

Last September my girlfriend and I decided to spend our vacation doing a road trip through Turkey. Obviously a vacation is always a great time to work and so I decided to bring my camera and a set of lights.

I met my friend and Corbis AD Tobias Prasse for dinner a few days before departure and he generously offered to loan me his lights for the trip. This would make it my regular 2 packs/ 4 heads set-up. For a little while I was tempted to stick with just my set, since one 7b outfit is already a substantial schlepp, but Tobie quickly talked sense into me. Something along the line of “If you gonna take pictures, you might as well take your kind of pictures.”. He’s a good dad and clearly he was right.

We did some damage control by not bringing spare batteries but otherwise accepted the idea of traveling heavy.

One thing we probably all can agree on is that air travel is in a very sorry state and the American carriers might be among the worst of the bunch. So, my priorities are usually 1) get a direct flight and 2) with a non-American airline and 3) for a reasonable price. The direct flight is paramount since my anecdotal evidence shows that any stop-over represents a 20% chance of your bags getting send to purgatory.

Anyway, we went 3 for 3 and got a reasonable direct flight with Turkish Airways. We took a car service to JFK, paid for excess baggage, went through the usual check-in cluster-f, and were on our way.

We flew into Istanbul, rented a Renault Megane Diesel (which really helped us save on gas quite a bit ) and made our way to Cappadocia. After settling in a bit and checking out the area for a few days, I was itching to start the photo project. The problem was though that I still wasn’t sure what the project would be.

We were hanging out on the horse ranch of a friend’s friend and asked him if he could find us a local guy we could hire to translate and assist. He recommended Sedat, a young guy working with the horses, who turned out to be perfect for the job. He was highly energetic, charming, not shy at all and a quick learner.

When in doubt I would always consider myself a portraitist first and so I decided to start driving around with Susie and Sedat and see who we could find to take pictures of. I’ve always been interested in portraits of men and Turkey has such a patriarchal society that it made sense to explore that angle. We photographed this young guy first…

and then this older guy….

and then it all snapped into place.

Looking at the older man through my lens the India portraits started to make total sense. I realized that what I liked about them was that the men carried their age in a way that’s all but extinct in western societies. In the US and Europe just about everybody tries to be between 25 and 35. No matter if you’re a five year old girl or a seventy year old man you try to hit that sweet spot as fast as possible and stay there as long as you can. This is also true for fashion. A little girl and her grandmother might both dress like Byonce or a 4 year old boy and his 70 year old granddad might wear the same kind of shorts, sneakers and t-shirt without ever being considered strange.

In Turkey the old men looked like old men, and there was no air of defeat about them.

They also had great style even when their clothes were old and worn. Almost all of these guys were tough and skinny, and you could read their history in the lines of their faces.

I had my project.

We drove on to the next town and saw 2 or 3 oldtimers hang out at the town square. We set up our lights in a spot where we could easily rotate for 2 different good backgrounds and once we were ready to shoot, Sedat approached the men and explained to them what we were trying to do. They were a bit skeptical at first but finally decided to help a fellow out and once we could show the first portrait on the computer we had no problems convincing other men to sit for us.

What also helped was that a lot of these Anatolians spend time as guest workers in Germany when they were young and so I could talk to quite a few of them without Sedat translating.

After the town square we went to a more rural part trying to find a few men that Sedat knew from his horse rides. We drove a few miles on dirt roads and the first one we met was this shepherd with his flock of goats. He was in his early forties and the youngest in this project.

Trunk editing station:

The next stop we made was at a little cabin that was used by father and son beekeepers. It was on a beautiful spot of land near the Avanos river where they kept around 180 (!!) beehives. The portrait of the father became one of my favorites….

and we got a snack of honey that was nothing short of incredible.

We drove through a little town where we saw some prime candidates for our shoot sitting in the tea house but by now the sun was getting pretty low and we couldn’t find a decent location with good light in easy walking distance for the old men. So we decided to drive some more on the dirt roads around town to look for the last shot of the day and we came across this man who was riding on his tractor. He was working on a nearby construction site and told us, he would sit for us but had only a few minutes.

We hustled to set up our kit in record time, but as soon as he saw that there were 4 lights plus a large camera pointing at him, he told us, we could take all the time we want. I guess everybody likes a little Hollywood.

The Sultans-Magcloud Magazine

The Sultans-Issuu

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