AK talks to Turkish photographer Kıvılcım Güngörün about everything from coriander to why analogue is still the bees knees
AK: Tell us a little about yourself to start things off. A/S/L. Are you naturally blonde? What are your feelings about coriander (kişniş)? All that good stuff…
Kıvılcım Güngörün: I’m 22 years old, I was born in Manisa, Turkey. I’ve been living in İzmir for 4 years and I’m currently studying photography at İzmir’s DEU’s Fine Arts Faculty. I have two more terms left until I graduate. I visit İstanbul as much as I can. I’m not actually blonde but my hair’s been this color since I was in middle school so it sort of became a habit. And sadly, I have nothing nice whatsoever to say about coriander, it really sucks… I’m sorry…
AK: How did you originally get into photography?
Kıvılcım Güngörün: I began photographing by taking funny shots with my phone. After a while, my parents got me a small digital camera but I didn’t actually take that many shots with it. Something always pushed me away from it – it felt too easy. After that, since I wasn’t doing too well in high school, my older sister, who was studying at the time at DEU’s Dramatic Writing Department, suggested I try to get into DEU’s Photography Department. At first I thought I would just take a look at the exam, learn some stuff, study for a year and then try the exam seriously the next time. I really didn’t think I would get accepted since I didn’t know much about the subject and the exam was only a month away. So I didn’t bother putting in a huge effort to study. Meanwhile, my dad’s friend sent me my first analogue camera. I shot 3 or 4 films and really enjoyed it. I like not being able to see the results instantly – it’s exciting. In the process, I met people who were already studying in the photography department and others who were hoping to get accepted. I spent that month at my sister’s empty apartment hanging out with a bunch of people. Then came the exam week. I not only got accepted into the school, but I even almost topped the list. Everyone was in shock; myself, my parents, my friends, my sister. So my sister and I ended up at the same school by chance. Now that I think about it, we were really lucky to be able to study together at university.
AK: You shoot exclusively on analogue. Why is that? Was it an active decision against shooting digitally?
Kıvılcım Güngörün: ‘Process’ and ‘waiting’ are concepts that are very familiar to me. They help me understand the worth of what is present now. With an analogue camera, the feelings and conditions you experience while shooting through the films are tangibly trapped beneath a surface. It’s amazing to wait and wonder throughout the developing process while those feelings transform into visuals. One of the most valuable aspects of shooting on analogue is that after a while you learn to think more deeply about the shot rather than simply shooting a lot before getting the right frame. Your film might be running out, or you might not have enough money to buy a new one, so you need to think more to make sure each photograph turns out just the way you want it to. There is no delete button. From the moment you take a shot, it exists. Whether you shred the film, burn it, it still exists. And it’s real. I’m not against digital per se, but when you take all these factors into consideration, when a photograph is this real and concrete, the idea of a photograph without a surface just doesn’t appeal to me. Imagine if every electronic device, all the power and technology in the world were to disappear for an instant… my photographs, however, would still remain with me. Because they truly exist, they are in my hand and I can hold them, no matter if they are good or bad.
AK: What kind of music are you into at the moment? Do you find musical inspiration for your work?
Kıvılcım Güngörün: I believe music is one of the most inspirational concepts that exists. It’s creepy to think of a world without music. At every moment and every stage of my life, music has been an inspiration to me for everything. I listened mostly to two genres throughout my school years: shoegaze and psychedelic rock. I was into shoegaze because I was a little depressive and, if I remember correctly, the boy I liked listened to it a lot. Psychedelic rock was always familiar to my ears because of my family. I grew up with the likes of Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, The Velvet Underground. It was great. Other than that, I used to listen to many genres of music in lots of different languages while home alone. I wouldn’t limit my taste in music by choosing one genre over another. I like every genre. These days, it’s more about songs than genres for me. There are 150-200 songs that I listen to at a time, and I usually go back to them. Another interest of mine is going to psychedelic trance festivals. My sister and I go to these festivals in our trailer. These trips have allowed me to visit many countries and meet a lot of different, interesting types of people while all listening to the same music. I’ve experienced moments that were sometimes enjoyable and sometimes tough. But music, good or bad, was always there for us. Sometimes on our dysfunctional trailer radio, sometimes on high quality party amplifiers, and sometimes simply on my mind.
AK: A decent amount of your work is shot outside of Turkey. How long have you been traveling and shooting? Where are some of your favourite places to shoot and why?
Kıvılcım Güngörün: I travel to other countries as much as my money and time allow. It’s my philosophy that the more new places you see and the more new people you meet, you will learn more and more – both good and bad. Every new place translates into a new me. I mostly travel alone but I visit people I already know or stay with new people I meet. Being alone is at times amazing and at others hard and sad. But my goal is to learn more by experiencing hard times rather than joyful ones. Nice, happy things are forgotten easily and pass by without being properly examined; you don’t understand how time passes when you’re happy. But when you’re not at ease, time passes by slowly and you therefore have more time to think and to wrap your head around things. And it’s during those moments that a person is least likely to forget. That’s why I can’t choose which city or country was better or nicer to shoot in. Every place has its own unique effect on me, produces a new me and creates a particular feeling, and that’s why I consider each one my favorite for different reasons.
AK: You’re originally from Manisa, but are now living in İzmir. How have the places you lived in influenced your work?
Kıvılcım Güngörün: Manisa doesn’t have any interesting activities for young people. I only had a few friends there. My other friends all lived in İzmir but my [young] age and financial situation meant I couldn’t go there frequently. On weekdays, I would save my allowance and try to get permission [from my parents] to go on the weekend. Of course, when I was 15 or 16 I couldn’t get my parents’ permission to go to other cities every time I wanted to. But with Izmir I guess I was lucky because both my aunts and sister lived there. When I wasn’t able to go to İzmir, however, I’d spend time alone at home. Generally, I’d research and download music, try to understand the lyrics, and transfer those feelings into writing, while checking out visuals online. Considering that I only decided to study photography during my last month of high school, those sessions of inspiration from music and visuals clearly had a powerful effect on my later work. I noticed that I’d been subconsciously preparing myself to work in a visually-related field.
AK: Do you have any one image you’ve shot that stands out amongst the rest? If so why?
Kıvılcım Güngörün: I can’t judge my photographs in that way. They each have their unique value to me because they all represent a different stage or situation of my life.
AK: You have a pretty interesting style of “drawing” over some of your photographs. Can you tell us a little bit about the process and why you started doing this?
Kıvılcım Güngörün: I only began painting a year ago. My works are not really nice but I paint as and when I feel like it and it relaxes me. The series in which I draw over my photographs using the paint program uses shots I took on the street. I carry postcard size copies and leave them in places I find important or give them to people I meet. It’s a simple process – I either circle things to emphasize their importance to me or I scribble over things that I react negatively towards. There are a lot of postcards that I’ve hidden in churches, streets, restrooms, bookstores, or left with people I meet. And the really fun part is trying to execute it like a secret mission without people noticing. It creates funny moments.
AK: What kind of impact do you want your work to have? Do you have a certain end goal?
Kıvılcım Güngörün: I don’t have an end goal right now. All I’m concerned with is continuously collecting the frames that occur in my life or around me, somewhat like a diary. And I want to keep doing it. I find myself so lucky to have ‘met’ photography. So, rather than thinking forward, I’m saving the ‘now’ in order to carry onwards. It’s great.
AK: Tell us about the last dream you had that you remember.
Kıvılcım Güngörün: I dream a lot and all my dreams are movie-like. But most recently I had one where I developed a new way of taking pictures which involves taking photos of past moments. I went into a dark room, fully concentrated, and tried to remember the most intense feelings I’d had that day. I transferred the energy that came out of me onto a piece of paper using a chemical that I also invented in the dream. So it was like photographing through feelings and emotions, creating a day’s visual with the help of the emotional impact it had on you. It was very interesting and mystical.