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Turkish-born photographer Ozge Cone creates evocative black-and-white portraits and still lifes. Having moved from Istanbul to London, we catch up with Ozge to talk about how her work portrays the notion of identity, existence and self-discovery.
When did you realize photography was your calling?
There isn’t a moment of realization for me. I have always been attached to art of photography. Most particularly, I was more interested in early 20th century and experimental photography. In my whole life, I had never felt anything like a stab through my heart while gazing at, for a long time, a work of art. The photography was arousing these feelings inside of me. [I remember Roland Barthes’s punctum at this point.] However, it wasn’t that thing which led me to take photographs. I only had a special relationship with photography. I started to take photos when I started to search for myself. My photos have turned into myself and myself into photos. I am looking for myself and answers.
How would you describe your work in three words?
Unconscious manifestations, psychological, chaotic.
Your work delves into the concept of identity. Would you say this is a reflection into your own life?
Of course. I am an artist who is constantly looking for the answer to ‘What is it?’ My works have been based on identity, representation, otherization, self-alienation, existence, and time perception for such a long time. I tried to show the effects of these concepts on society and deformations of people’s lives. Naturally, aside from my identity as an artist, the relationship that I conceived personally was also involved in my work. Nowadays, I have been approaching my work more subjectively. I am asking these questions more to myself.
You mostly use female models for your work. How important is that for you as a female photographer?
I do not believe in sexuality and aesthetic concepts. I am fighting with myself in my photos. Accordingly, I pick my models among the people that I can contact with in my life. I am not objective to myself yet to transform into object of photography. I can be more objective with them. That is all the reason. [I might argue with women more.]
Your photographs provokes emotion and mystery. Is this something you intentionally want your viewers to feel?
People sometimes use words that I am not aware of, like ‘mystery.’ Whereas, I think I give out everything too much in my work. I manifest an emotion in my works. The things that you have. I don’t express anything that you don’t have. This is the place where I meet with the audience: ‘WE.’ I do believe in this.
Has being brought up in Istanbul and then moving to London affected your style of work?
Too much. The feeling of being in the flow and movement has always given freedom to me. Even the ‘abandonment’ idea would give a heroic pleasure secretly. I came to London after I had made sure that I didn’t want to live in my own country anymore. At this point, the moral responsibility that I had, the reality that I got caught up in, your own chaos, the burden of this time that we live in, love, everything, made me find myself completely in lost. I believe that this phase took me away to a different awareness of what I observe in my works. My manipulation works have started at that process.
How does the art scene in Istanbul differ from that in London?
Actually, there isn’t a huge gap. I don’t certainly think that we follow things behind. As far as I am concerned, if there is freedom of opinion and expression, you can release yourself more. I don’t say we don’t have it in Istanbul completely, but there is something that restricts you: ‘Fear.’ That fear spreads to affect me in every respect. We need to be more brave not only as artists but also gallery owners.
Do you prefer the art scene in Istanbul or London?
I am a person who doesn’t ‘prefer’ generally and lives by chance. That’s why I am here now, and I live London. I would like to be active in my own country of course.
You designed the album artwork for artist Ash Koosha. How did that come about?
When I came first to London, we met with Ash accidentally, and I believe we have a special relationship with him. If I converted my photos into music, I guess Ash would be composing them. I suppose it would be the same for Ash. And finally, when that magnificent album of his came out, we decided to work together. I also shot the artwork for his press release which was fun. We have been talking about the second photo shooting nowadays.
Is there any other recording artist you would like to design an album cover for?
I am setting to work with an another great musician soon. Apart from him, I would like to work with Bilal Salaam definitely. He is such a great artist that I am grateful for his existence.
If you could capture a memory of your childhood on camera what would it be and why?
There was a boy that I fell in love with in secondary school. I suppose he was in high school at that time. We used to drink ‘never-ending Coke’ at Subway after school nearly every school day. I used to go to Subway with a best friend to see him for two years. I was feeling that I was going to have a heart attack every time I saw him. We never talked with each other, but I always believed that we looked at each other. One day, while I was again laying my eyes on him, I fell from the chair. I think I would like to take photo of this moment. I am still laughing right now.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
I am a person who contemplates too much. I sometimes wake up from my sleep to think. I overthink on everything that I have looked at, listened, experienced and then I ask questions. Afterwards, a ‘moment’ comes out which stimulates me. This is a feeling like I am going to explode and disappear. I know everything I wanna say, my hands are only working, and then I produce.
What has been your proudest work to date?
I can say Inside and Out and Now.
How would you like your work to be remembered?
As the way they are.
What projects are you currently working on?
There isn’t any project that I am currently working on, but there are somethings that I believe are going to turn into a project.
What can we expect from you in the future?
It can’t be less from current, but you can expect more.
Where can people find your work?
On my website, www.ozgecone.com.
Interview conducted by Ese Akpojotor