Du Loukoum au Béton

Du Loukoum au Béton (from Turkish Delight to Concrete). A title evoking transition, passage. The transition of a country, Turkey, at the junction of two tectonic plates named Tradition and Modernity. The passage of our Western minds towards a renovated, more accurate vision of today’s Turkey, a vision growing away from our orientalist nostalgia as well as from our fears.

In the course of my trips between 2007 and 2010 to Anatolian cities – economic miracles (Kayseri, Konya) or blighted cities (Trabzon, Diyarbakır) – I discovered a country and its citizens in the process of “becoming”. This discovery is the reason connecting me to «in-between» Turkey. It is what anchored my commitment to a long-term project on the effects of globalization in Turkey. du Loukoum au Béton is its first part.

Negotiating the passage towards a new identity is not that easy, particularly when this new identity is forged on the shifting terrain between imported Modernity and a society still anchored in traditional, conservative values. Contemporary Turkey gazes at its reflection, mirrored in the globalized emblems of “Modernity”. I encountered everywhere “photocopy urbanism”. The verticality of standardized residential towers replacing the lively architectural jumble of human-scale traditional neighborhoods. New residential zones with a feeling of solitude to them materializing on urban fringes. The automobile’s increasing invasiveness. Increasingly dense networks of broad avenues-expressways-freeways. Identical and anonymous peri-urban zones grouping economic activity. In the end, a human being’s presence in these places can sometimes even appear incongruous.

Under the influence of my love of Ottoman miniature painting and adopting a subjective documentary approach, I focused on these “stigmata” of Modernity. Because photographing urban landscape was new for me. Because these transformations to urban fabric imply transformations to society. If, as Olivier Mongin argues, the destiny of Urban is intimately linked to democracy, then Turkey is currently and for many years to come a fascinating societal laboratory.

My personal approach to documenting Turkey’s quest for a renovated identity and new reference points involves a reflection on the use of color. By intentionally overexposing and shifting my colors, I’ve given them a slightly “off-key” quality, thereby also introducing the “de-realization” that is essential to my photographic universe. Colors echoing a Turkey increasingly removed with each passing day from its old identity but not yet settled into the identity taking shape.