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GALLERY: Aylin Güngör
Ed Ledsham , May 13th, 2014 07:35

The Istanbul-based photographer shows us a few images from her new book, Oturduğum Yerden (From Where I Am), and tells us about shooting musicians in her home city over the last decade

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Over the past decade, Aylin Güngör, editor-in-chief and art director of Istanbul-based culture magazine Bant Mag, has photographed a vast array of musicians as they visit and explore her city. She's now collected some of her best work, including shots of Animal Collective, Caribou, Mick Harvey, John Maus, TV On The Radio, Josephine Foster and Moon Duo among others, into a book, Oturduğum Yerden (From Where I Am), a testament to the mundane and melancholic being transformed into something of wonder, as Güngör sees a familiar city revitalised through the eyes of others. As she writes: "They came to Istanbul, where I live. I claimed this city is sad, they thought it is undeniably beautiful. Through the eyes of these lovely people, the sadness I had always sensed around me transformed into joy and revelry - so their declarations of wonder convinced me every single time".

The book is out now, and is available from Bant's website. We talked to Güngör about the process of photographing artists and bands in her home city; have a read below and click on the image at the foot of the piece to scroll through a gallery of some of her photographs.

Many of these shots are wonderfully intimate; they seem to capture musicians in a very natural way and some of them have the spontaneity of a camera phone snap. How do you go about taking the photographs and what do you use to capture them?

Aylin Güngör: I generally don't like well-organised photos. It ruins the moment. I like to hang out with people and find their convenient moment. What you see in the photos is what those people mean to me. Joyful, curious, anxious, sweet, dude, strange, shy, enthusiastic, discreet, charming, etc… Maybe that's why it's like a snap of an original moment. I carry my camera all day long in a bag and I don't bother anybody by constantly trying to take a photo, instead we hang out, have a chat, eat, laugh and then, if there is a right moment I just take my camera out. Of course, it's not always like this but it is easy to see which photos have this feeling.

For the cameras, I use only analogue. Square shots and panoramic shots are done with two different Hasselblad cameras. Others are with Ricoh GR1v, Contax TVS, Yashica T3, Leica Minilux, etc. (I've used many different cameras and films, my cameras are a bit suicidal, whenever I buy a new one, one of my favourites dies in a tragic way and I'm not kidding, this is the truth! Only the Ricoh survived among those little cameras.) For films I generally like to use Kodak T-MAX, TX, Portra and Fuji NPS. But I do like to use out of date films as well; they're pretty affordable, keeps the business going.

The photographs also feel like they could be shots of any group of bohemians of the last hundred years - is there a particular idea you seek to represent in these photos?

AG: I've had a similar comment before and it made me look at my photos in that way for the first time. I liked that, it was a great compliment for me. Although it's unintentional maybe my mind and vision were working, selecting the moments that way!

Are there any particular places that the bands are most interested in going or that went against their preconceptions?

AG: Obviously everybody has their own interests. Some of them are real tourists, some of them only want to taste Turkish food, and some of them just want to hang out in the neighbourhood. Mostly they know about the old town, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and hamams, but what attracts and surprises them most are the street cats and dogs.

I think most of them expect to find more of an exotic, Eastern feeling, but Istanbul is actually very mixed. There are 17 million people living here and it's a gigantic concrete jungle with all kinds of surprises in it, it bores us very much, but I think they like it and feel fascinated. There's crazy nightlife, good food and different cultural mindsets… Especially as we hang out with most of them on the Asian side of Istanbul where we live; this side is calmer, hidden and has more of a local vibe, so they get to see the non-touristic real deal part of the city too. Like going to a fruit and vegetable market with Damon & Naomi and then coming home and eating what we bought… Or going bowling with the TV On The Radio gang or going to the nearest island with tUnE-yArDs on a cold, rainy day, just walking up the hill with dogs and horses all around us… These are the kinds of experiences people like mostly.

One thing that I should add is that usually American and British bands have almost no preconceptions and easily receive what they see. But sometimes European bands expect to see a similar Turkish culture to what they see and witness in their home countries with Turkish immigrants. But Istanbul is a totally different case.

There look to be some great stories behind these photos - are any of the artists particularly good to hang out with?

AG: We enjoyed hanging out with most of the bands that managed to stay here several days. With Dan Snaith, Black Dice, Dan Deacon, A Hawk And A Hacksaw, Jim Thirlwell, etc… I have millions of good moments but if I may share some… Staying at our house with Moon Duo and Six Organs Of Admittance was a very fun few days, it was very entertaining to have three couples with different attitudes and similar music tastes…Spending a true tourist-y day with Josephine Foster, Paz Lenchantin, Victor Herrero and talking about how I would love to play percussion one day and then finding myself on stage for their last song playing a mini drum after Josephine's sudden invitation. It was scary and unforgettable at the same time. Going to a gypsy festival and doing an exhibition together with Tara Jane O'Neil and her friends from Portland was a lot of fun… Especially hanging out and talking with women like Tara Jane, Samara Lubelski, Carla Bozulich, Merrill Garbus, Naomi Yang, Angel Deradoorian was very inspiring.

Although it's sad, we won't forget the two days shopping around the antique stores with Jason Molina. He bought two old objects and had to leave them behind with us as he didn't have any space during the Magnolia Electric Co. tour. Sadly, this happened to be their last ever tour and he never managed to send us the address for us to send the objects.

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