Ali Beşikçi, Photographer and Founder of Zone Magazine interviewed by Rosie Harding
I stumbled across the work of Ali Beşikçi by chance.
Chance encounters always held a special significance to me. The idea that some greater force beyond yourself is steering the course as you react to what crosses your path. Curiosity and intrigue are often driving forces for a photographer, as is the case with Beşikçi's project Phantasm, whose impetus was the mysticism surrounding an unplaceable image on a roll of film he could not remember taking. The unknown seeps into the work, forged from this moment of confusion being confronted with a memory that is recorded but forgotten. Photography is often seen as a tool for shedding light on a situation, as a moment is plucked from the inevitability of the passage of time and fixed. However Beşikçi’s work disrupts this narrative, forcing him to confront where his own memory had failed and the camera has gone beyond to record what was lost.
I loved your series Phantasm. The work to me seems to lure the viewer into your own eerie world of uncertainty, and I love what a prominent role the process (finding a forgotten image) played in this. What usually inspires you? (Photographers but also perhaps more broadly artists/ philosophers/ family? )
Everything inspires me! Music, cinema, poetry, science, mushrooms... curiosity practically! I’m currently studying in a course which is a mix of art theories (to say it in the most boring way) and one thing that the course made me realize was how all of these mediums are in a continuous flirtatious relationship. So in general studying anything can be studying photography for me. I don't usually get a sense of a project in my head and start a hunt for the images of this universe (it would be a lie to say I don’t envy those photographers who can work like that!). Or at least I can’t do it consciously...
If I can listen carefully enough to the dialogue between the photographs I have collected trying not to overthink the reason while creating them, they later on tell me about myself and about my relationship with photography. Therefore, the moments I take a photo and the formation of a kind of story are two completely different processes for me. Phantasm was born out of the confusion the photograph in question created in me and me diving into the images I have been taking for the last three years and trying to solve this confusion with some sort of fiction (which doesn’t detach from “reality”). So in the process of groups of images finding each other, there is more or less a conceptual roof that they unite under. But in the making of these images, my inspirations are light and the possibilities of an analogue camera.
I like that the work is not tied to any one place and seems to inhabit an indeterminate space. In general your work seems to explore in-between states – do you feel your background having been born in Istanbul and then moving to Italy plays a part in this?
My first book “In Between” was kinda playing with the idea of me being in between Italy and Turkey, in between phases etc.. But for me that in-betweenness usually refers to a more quasi quantum state where everything is happening simultaneously and where picking one of these states becomes less significant. I think it’s a hard concept to play around with while photography is more or less about choosing one of these situations and naturally ignoring the rest, though I am more interested in the presence of absence, the forgotten, the off-camera, the outtakes... The situations in between situations that seem to matter, the aftermaths and so on. So I don’t know another way!
If you could photograph in any place, where calls out to you?
There are places that I’d like to see more than others, I want my eyes and ears to become my passport! But photographically speaking, everywhere is equally interesting for me.
I often wonder about photography’s link to objective reality, and I liked the part of Zones Manifesto about ‘works that use what’s real and still create their own reality’. Is this what interests you, the way photographs can resolve a variety of new meanings/realities?
We tend to seek darkness in the darkest of places, and magic in already magical spaces. This doesn’t interest me that much... For example nature is beautiful and we all know it. I find it pointless to try to show that beauty over and over again. It’s already there! You know? What else can we extract from a certain situation which seemingly isn’t there? How can light talk about darkness? That’s what interests me! The fact that the reading of a photograph totally changes when coupled with another, how these images give birth to dialogues that by themselves cannot create. Right there, I feel like new worlds are created!
Was the manifesto a starting point for setting up the magazine?
The manifesto came after. At some point I wanted the platform to have some kind of statement, and I wanted it to be as bleak and open as possible to avoid limitations. They are statements that appear to be pretty basic, however they aim to underline some of the stuff that we usually ignore while making or viewing a work. I try to keep everything as open ended as possible with Zone, to avoid limitations yes, but also because I am really interested in anything that is interesting! The ‘character’ of Zone should be an underlying idea/vision, not a particular aesthetical or conceptual preoccupation.
What is inspiring you currently? What is next on the horizon for you?
I started playing drums again after a bunch of years, so that inspires me at the moment! Rhythm, repetition, repetition, repetition, etc. :) Where a medium lacks, another comes into play. Lately I’ve been trying to explore the relations between sounds and images, this made me want to take some videos again, although when I observe the stuff that I’ve been making I see that they are more photographic works than videos. Maybe because while I was searching for the in between in the still image, I found out that a video can be a big collection of in between images, and it’s very fun to play with!
Thank you to Ali Beşikçi for his thoughts, you can find his work on the links below: