Back in February 2015, BJP flagged up Cemre Yesil as a One to Watch - and now her series For Birds' Sake, made with Maria Sturm, has won a Prix Levallois nomination
Having recently settled back in Istanbul after many years in London, Cemre Yesil now divides her time between both cities – and it’s working for her. Last year, the 27-year-old was nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award, and exhibited work at Nyheter Landskrona Fotofestival in Sweden and Obscura Festival in Malaysia. In between, she found time for lecturing, publishing her work and studying for a PhD in photography at London College of Communication.
“Cemre demonstrates a wonderful playfulness in her very intimate work and understands the medium of her craft beautifully,” Fiona Rogers, global business development manager at Magnum Photos, says of her nomination for BJP’s Ones to Watch in 2015. “She creates objets d’art as a vehicle for her photography – from intricate installations to thoughtful photobooks. There is a poetic ‘sing-song’ quality to her work; photography weaves seamlessly between words, historic content and performance art to create almost fictional, dream-like stories,” she says.
Rogers, who is the founder of Firecracker, a platform supporting European women photographers, featured images from For Birds’ Sake on the site in August; it’s a collaborative project about Istanbul’s aviculture which Yesil is currently working on with her friend Maria Sturm. “Many diverse social platforms exist in Istanbul devoted to the keeping and breeding of birds,” explains Yesil.
“The project focuses on the shrouded relationship between the bird and the birdman that is full of the contradictions of love, possession and pleasure. It is a deeper look at birds without seeing actual birds – imagery stuffed with representations of birds.”
Yesil and Sturm are now editing the work, which they hope to exhibit and publish as a book. “I enjoy trying to understand the relationships between people, things, nature and life forms,” says Yesil, who studied photography and video at Istanbul Bilgi University and has an MA in visual arts from Sabanci University.
“I see photography as a tool to interact with my surroundings. Photographs as objects have a great power to create pathways to rethink the connections we share with the natural world.”
Outside of her own work, Yesil has plans for a photography-focused bookshop and venue in Karakoy, Istanbul. Due to open this spring, FiLBooks will be “dedicated to photobooks, artist talks and workshops, and will hopefully turn into a collaborative project space for photography”, says Yesil. “Even though I have always been interested in artist books and photobooks, I don’t know how to run a bookshop, so learning this will be one of my next goals.”
www.cemreyesil.com www.mariasturm.com The Prix Levallois winner will be announced at Les Rencontres d’Arles on 05 July. http://prix-levallois.com www.rencontres-arles.com This article originally appeared in BJP’s February 2015 Ones to Watch issue, which is available via www.thebjpshop.com