Interview: George Alexandrakis
Mustafa Seven has worked as a photojournalist in many well-known Turkish newspapers before turning his attention to street photography.
He has been awarded at many national and international photography contests and has taken part in numerous exhibitions and festivals.
His Instagram account is one of the most popular among those of the Turkish photographers due to his remarkable photographs that capture unique parts of Istanbul. His book ‘Instanbul’ includes over a hundred photographs that have been shared there since 2010.
Which was the motive to start photography? Was there anyone who motivated you to move on with the art of photography?
Actually there was nothing that specifically pushed me to photography but I was always better at communicating myself through visual media instead of words. As I child used to draw a lot as I wasn’t aware of photography and its expression power. In university we were working on a small publication and I started to take photos for that. Since then, I have never stopped taking photos as I felt very well behind the camera. No one specific has motivated me to move on with the art of photography but what the world, the streets and what life has to offer pushed me in this direction.
How do you feel when one of your photographs is chosen to be published? How difficult is it for a documentary photographer to find his audience?
I worked as a photojournalist for almost 20 years so my job was to take photos that would be published, I always worked very hard not to disrupt the story and to be as invisible as possible. Later on, I found much of my audience thanks to the internet, I started using Instagram as my personal portfolio and many people liked these images which reflected life; photography is very powerful in that sense, the photographer tells a story with the image he captures and every viewer can read a different story from it.
Photographers are divided, by some, to art, wedding, documentary etc. Do you believe that such a separation exists or do you think that each one can capture anything, of course from his own perspective?
Most of this separation is professional; the kind of work that you do most creates your portfolio. You can look at photography from two perspectives; from the technical one it is true that some fields of photography require very specific knowledge, if you lack the technical knowledge required for a specific field you would have trouble figuring it out, for example, it would take a while for a perfect wild life photographer to get adjusted to the conditions of a studio. Of course, he would be able to adjust in the end. From the artistic point of view, the field you have chosen already gives a message about what intrigues you artistically. For me, this is people and life, I like to understand these and discover new ways of expressing them, but I don’t feel the same way when it comes to a landscape, for example.
Was there a time at work where you got emotional and felt like you had to intervene because of an unfair situation?
This is a very common question, asked especially over the renowned figure of the vulture and African child. Actually, it’s a question that challenges the human qualities and conscience of the photojournalist. I never encountered such a severe situation that required my intervention during my photojournalism career, so I am not very sure about what I would do. The important thing in any case, is whether the image manipulates the situation or not. From a professional point of view, my first response would be to document the situation without intervening but as I said, this is a huge responsibility, I am not sure what I would do. There is a saying in Turkish: “It’s easy for a bachelor to divorce his wife” 🙂
Which element makes a photograph memorable and which image you will always remember?
The answer to this is always the photos you were not able to take. Sometimes you see something and either the light is not right, or you don’t have the appropriate equipment etc, and you miss that moment. I have tens of images like this is in my head, I can’t forget those moments that have passed without being documented. The element that makes a photograph memorable is the story.
Is the cost of the equipment a disincentive for a young photographer to pursue a career in documentary photography?
Considering how much initial investment any field requires I wouldn’t say that it is. Even so, my advice to anyone seeking equipment is that the best camera is the one you can afford; it doesn’t really matter if it’s an expensive camera, the photographer captures the moments -not the camera. Of course, one should know how the camera would behave under which conditions so that he doesn’t miss a good moment because of technical barriers. You don’t need to make a huge investment on equipment in the beginning, especially with today’s technological conditions that make it possible for good cameras to be available at low prices and there is no cost per image like there was with analogue film.