Freestyle: ‘Turks’ spotlights youth, idealism
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / email@example.com
The photographs are perhaps 40 years old, but Omer Kursat can give you details about the days when they were taken and the people photographed.
Two men reclining in the grass? It was a Sunday afternoon in the park. One of the men is now dead.
» Where: Chinatown Artists Lofts, 1109 Maunakea St., Ste. 215
The long-haired woman gazing impudently into the camera’s lens on page 24? A dancer, Beyhan Foulkes, now choreographer for the Turkish Ballet and married to former King of Goth Peter Murphy.
In most, the subject looks directly back at the photographer. In a select few, the men and women gaze up or away, posing dramatically, betraying their interaction with the camera.
They are young and beautiful. Some look teenaged, others just old enough to smoke or take on a sophisticated veneer.
They are hopeful and confident, innocent and experienced.
They are the subjects of Kursat’s self-published book of photographs, “Young Turks,” which collects 52 informal portraits of Kursat’s friends (and Kursat himself) taken in Ankara and Izmir, Turkey, in the mid-’70s.
“They tell a story of coming of age, a story of beauty, friendship and love,” Kursat writes in the introduction.
THE BOOK will be available on First Friday at the debut of Kursat’s new studio and gallery in the Chinatown Artists Lofts. He’s named the space after his independent publishing venture, Deuxmers — translated from the French as “two seas,” or a play of words on “from Omer.”
Kursat ushered me inside his second-floor studio Tuesday, smiling and energetic as he nearly always seems to be.
“I wanted it to be like a private detective’s office,” he confided, and it does, in a movie-set, mid-century American way, with its glass door shielded by Venetian blinds, vintage props and a bar masquerading as an antique stereo.
“Young Turks” holds 50 pages of portraits. Twelve of them have been reproduced and hang on his studio walls. Most are candid.
They document a time when he himself was young, “camera in hand” and avid to experiment.
“Taking a picture was a part of my social interaction,” he said of a time when photos could not easily be published or distributed. “The interaction actually had more significance than the static image.”
He set on the idea of publishing them shortly after he’d returned from a trip to Turkey. Unrest had been roiling the Middle East, and his home nation was not immune. When protesters who opposed a nationalistic shopping mall in Gezi Park were pushed out, Kursat could not get the troubling news of repression out of his head.
In some way, publishing “Young Turks” seemed like an antidote.
KURSAT began his venture into independent publishing in 2011 as he prepared to self-publish another book of his own photographs, “Over the Pali.” Since then, Deuxmers has released two other books by separate authors.
He has mixed feelings about independent publishing.
“It diminished the barriers to publishing, but the problem is the noise,” he said. Still, in a reflection of his own tirelessness, he says he’s looking for more authors.
Born in 1956, he was college-aged himself when he shot these photos; the son of a newspaperman who went into Turkish politics, at a time when ideals of peace and freedom were capturing the imagination of youth around the globe.
“I’m a U.S. citizen now,” he noted. “I’ve lived in the U.S. longer than I’ve lived in Turkey.”
He jokes that his next book will be titled, “Young Americans.”
The pictures themselves are charming and innocent. They cause me to ask: What use is art and idealism in this fractured, angry, violent world?
For some — and count me among them — they serve as goals, representative of physical and intellectual freedom. In that sense, they mean everything.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.