In his new project, Kemal's Dream, the photographer focuses on young people in present-day Turkey. The life of the most recent generation of Turks in this still-young democracy is determined to a large degree by the clash between tradition and modernity, and between religion and secularism. Many Turkish families still lead traditional lives; yet, a more individualistic and Western lifestyle also has appeal.
In his new project, Kemal’s Dream, photographer Ahmet Polat (NL,1978) focuses on young people in present-day Turkey. The life of the most recent generation of Turks in this still-young democracy is determined to a large degree by the clash between tradition and modernity, and between religion and secularism. Many Turkish families still lead traditional lives; yet, a more individualistic and Western lifestyle also has appeal.
For many young people, this produces an inner conflict that typifies the entire Republic of Turkey. Since the establishment of the republic by Kemal Atatürk in 1923, Turkey has been marked by a dualism that is often reduced to a struggle between East and West. The complex political debate surrounding Turkey’s EU membership intensifies this internal struggle and makes the search for its own identity extremely topical. As the son of a Dutch mother and a Turkish father, Polat recognized these issues and decided to document this essential process as reflected in his own generation.
For the past five years, Polat lived and worked in Turkey. He travelled from Istanbul to the Black Sea and from Gaziantep in the south-east to the Aegean region to visit, photograph and interview friends and new acquaintances.
Because of his own personal history Polat has succeeded in depicting his subjects from the inside rather than just as an outside observer. This results in a personal document that brings the newest generation of Turks closer. Furthermore, by capturing youth in big cities as well as in the more conservative rural areas, he reflects the diversity within a generation.
Just as in his earlier work, Polat seeks the interplay between expectations, prejudices and affirmation. As a documentary photographer, Polat makes use of traditional visual language, but is able to transcend this through his dynamic and layered compositions.
Ahmet Polat graduated from the St Joost Academy of Fine Art and Design in Breda in 2000. His work has often been exhibited since then, including Breda Photo, The Hague Museum of Photography and R.A.M. Gallery in Rotterdam. In 2004 he won second prize in the Zilveren Camera awards for documentary photography, in 2006 he won an ICP Infinity Award and in 2009 he was nominated for the prestigious Prix Pictet. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Paris Match, Vogue and Vice magazine.
With thanks to The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture.
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Image: Smoking in the sea, Kusadasi, 2007 (c) Ahmet Polat
Opening 15 october 2010
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