October 15th 2018
I have a long-lasting intimate relation with light since my early childhood when I remember enjoying playing with shadows a lot. Over the years, this evolved into a passion for photography. I had my own darkroom and self-explored this domain with fascination.
Since 2015, I have been working on long-term projects, mainly on urban transformation and gentrification, immigration and women. In one ongoing project, I focus on African immigrants in Istanbul. I have been curious about the Africans in Istanbul for long, about their widely unnoticed urban culture. And when I met Naomi, a young woman from West Africa, I had the chance I was waiting for. I soon discovered their colourful social lives, esp. the parties. There, they are very much into a show-off, always good-looking and fashionable. You would think they all are in showbiz. A small, innocent-looking boat party that started at early evening hours, evolves into a craziness of striptease shows, fake dollars and lots of liquor. The party people welcome the morning under the flashlights of an African club, somewhere in the backstreets of the city.
I have a long-lasting intimate relation with light since my early childhood, when I remember enjoying playing with shadows a lot.
These parties strikingly contradict with the rest of their lives. The majority complains about the hardship of living in Istanbul and many are unemployed, living in poor conditions. Then I realized that these parties are where they open up space for themselves, keep their souls alive and take a breath in this urban jungle. They create their own illusion of paradise, like a magician. One of my interviewees had once put it straight, “I want to make a statement that ‘here I am’. So I dress in vivid colours with a lot of symbols. When I step in light, I want to shine. You can’t go to a party looking any type of way”. This series documents the African immigrants’ night-life in Istanbul, to celebrate these proud and strong people with an undercurrent of struggle, and not the other way around.