“It’s a great feeling really,” explains Sevil Alkan as she describes the emotions of her recent success at the LensCulture Street Photography Awards. Her eye-catching project, Stray Dog, came first place in this year’s 2019 series category. Sevil’s work is born through emotion and created with the intention of challenging those who view it. Her images make for great single frames. However, they really come to life when observed as a collection – highlighting her ability to tell visual stories. Although it’s true that success can be a career changer for many, Sevil wasn’t ready to get too carried away, “I was on summer vacation when the winner was announced, so I celebrated with my friends over a couple of drinks.” Rather, she continues to focus on the task at hand, ready to build on this stepping stone and continue to create amazing street photography for us all to enjoy.
In light of her achievement, we felt it was only right to put further focus on her wonderful street photography…
Phoblographer: Your series, Stray Dog, was intended to encourage the viewer to have new channels of reflection. But from your personal viewpoint, reflecting on the series, what does it make you feel and think?
SA: Stray Dog is a visual approach I feel comfortable in. I have an emotional connection with each photo. That was a time I strayed into a sphere of feelings I have not been connected to before. A heightened state of awareness that shed a brighter light on things. I started to grow a new visual bond with Istanbul and its people, animals and inanimate objects. The photos were created at that time. So looking at these photos remind me of that feeling I had at the time.
“…there are times I feel I am overwhelmed. So it is a love and hate relationship.”
Phoblographer: How long did it take you to put the series together and at what point did you have the feeling that it had reached a natural completion?
SA: It took me about three years. In the full series, there are around 30 photographs. For the competition, I could only send 10. When it started becoming clear to me that the feeling I was talking about above was moving away from me, I understood that the project was over. I felt my photographic behaviour was altered.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about your relationship with Istanbul. How does this city inspire you to create?
SA: I love living in İstanbul. The city is so vibrant and surprising. But it can be exhausting too. It is full of people of different origins, ages, and cultures. This is what I love about the city. When I started to take photographs in İstanbul, I realized that I was able to grasp each of its elements in the many neighborhoods I visited. I walked on the strangest streets, I came across so many different people. It created a kind of awareness for the city and its people. But there are times I feel I am overwhelmed. So it is a love and hate relationship.
Phoblographer: You’re a smartphone photographer – what do you use and why do you prefer this over a more traditional camera system?
SA: I take the photographs both with my smartphone and a camera. I do not prefer one to another. I use both. Of course, a smartphone is more convenient, it is always with me. It is not really important what kind of a device you use for photography. What’s important is what images you create and how.
” I am so proud of myself to make this project about invisible women.”
Phoblographer: We were intrigued by your project, Housewives. For those who are yet to see it, please tell us your motivation for the project and what the main objective was?
SA: My mum is a housewife. I grew up a happy kid. Mom, dad and my younger brother, we made a warm family. As is the case with most men, there was some distance between home and my father. The beating heart of our home was my mom. The steadfast lady of the house. She meant everything to our home. She was at home. A housewife fortifying dad’s ‘guest’ relationship with home by her presence and with all the endless housework she does. There are around 14 million housewives in Turkey. They are actually workers who turn groups of rooms inhabited by family members into homes. Bearing the brunt of a job they can never leave or hand over. A job where pay is not even suggested. Rich or poor, by choice or by force… Once a housewife, your labour is null. Your time, happiness, health, your body, and your future are all dedicated to a sacred cause. You become invisible.
That was my motive. I wanted to enter the housewives’ sphere and to tell what I see and hear. I spent days in the homes of 14 women including my mom. I photographed them trying to keep up with housework, raising kids and in their rare spare time. I am so proud of myself to make this project about invisible women.
Phoblographer: It’s clear you’re interested in human behavior. Where do you think your curiosity about people and society comes from?
SA: Yes, I am very much interested in human behavior. I prefer to shed light on the humane side of the people I photograph. I try to reveal their emotions and try to create a feeling in the audience. I always try to pick and analyze the behaviour and feelings of film and book characters. I do not know where this motive comes from but it is how I look at this world.
Phoblographer: Finally, what’s next for you creatively?
SA: I am preparing a book for my Stray Dog series, hoping to release it in November. As for the next project, I have some ideas but still working on it.