The Artist

My name is Deniz Merdanogullari. In 2001,I had offered $100 to the first Anglophone to properly pronounce it, I have met 12 years worth of people in Canada, and still am not out of a $100 bill. So We’ll call me Deniz Merdano from now on. A compromise I can live with.

I was born in the sizzling centre of the universe called Istanbul, 1983. Changed 5 elementary schools, 3 middle and 2 high schools. I watched students, teachers, cafeterias, desks, flag poles, schoolhouses blast through me. Not a single one of them made sense. The idea of learning about the world outside, inside a room, felt wrong. Life couldn’t possibly be taught in a classroom.

In early 2000, I picked up a globe, and rammed a big hunter knife right through Istanbul. The tip came out in Vancouver, BC. I knew where I was headed when school was out.

As an international student, It did not take me too long to start thinking, note taking and dreaming in English. I shed my accent in a matter of months. What I realized next was quite shocking to me. I was becoming less and less Turkish and more and more, myself. Now in retrospect I was un-synchronizing from Istanbul and it’s routine. This freedom was almost too big to handle. Who would I be? Should I watch movies and pick a character and an accent? Read enough Bukowski and hope I don’t end up dead? Life was never fair, and even less to a Turk. I knew how to be the best version of ‘me’. instead of an inferior version of the ‘other’. Therefore I was free to explore who I was and who I could have potentially become, had I stayed in Turkey. It is no surprise that an observing art medium became my tool for communication.

Life was never fair, and even less to a Turk.

It was detrimental that I would go back occasionally to observe, understand and love my people again. It didn’t work out as planned. Having my first return ticket coincide with 9/11, I could not use my return ticket with a connecting flight from Chicago as a non Visa holding Turk.

I stayed put in Vancouver for 4 years without a single visit. Then I went back in 2005, armed with a camera to poke into people’s lives.Turning the gruelling morning commutes to opportunities for photographing the mass hardship. Not the traditional hardship of wars or the famines or the gangs; but the simple act of navigating the spit covered byzantinian sidewalks with a surgeon’s precision, jumping on to the Bosphorus ferry like a feline, and land like a master gymnast, constantly watching the weathered faces of Anatolia.

To get an average insight that could depict the Turkish culture, I took the smallest and the largest common denominators. Istanbul, the buzzing metropolis, and Babakale, a tiny village by the sea.

Babakale(Baba-kah-lay), aka Lektos in Homer’s Iliad, has a subtle geographical and historical significance. It is the western tip of Turkey and the continental Asia. Protruding gently into the Aegean sea like an olive skinned hand, It is perhaps the longest and the most beautiful dead end road. Over centuries pillaged by pirates roaming the twisty bends of the Western Anatolia seas, finally received its citadel around 1723 by a sea-storm stranded Ahmet the III.

It is a small village with stone houses and twisty olive trees that lead into a natural harbour of blue and green waters.

Small olive oil makers of Babakale produce some of the purest virgin olive oils in the world. a Production so small that it makes very little dent in the global and even national production numbers.

“It’s a dead end” say the youth. They want to leave Babakale, go to the city and not return. As the already small and old population of Babakale dwindles into nothing. Sailors, Farmers, Knife Makers and increasing number of tourists from major cities.

I want to offer myself to the village of Babakale. For the summers and winters I spent with the people of this imploding place. I would like to help shake things up as much as I can as an insider living on the outside, far outside of this place.

I wanted to start this with a book. A printed, tangible, unavoidable and immutable object. Simply called it the +90. For every phone call I made over the last 12 years. Starting each one with +90. Turkey’s international telephone code.

It could not have come at a better time as 2013 will be the 90th year for Ataturk’s Turkey.

It was also essential to use B&W film and analog equipment to achieve a timeless look and represent ‘a way’ on it’s way out the door. Hundreds of rolls of film, hundreds of hours of editing, designing and finally an 82 Page book. Representing the disappearing, the past and what soon will come.

Finally, I can consider a conversation started with the publication of this book .

The book is available in Montreal, Toronto and can be shipped to anywhere in the world straight from our website

I hope it sparks an interest, or even just a simple smile for a few pages. These are no longer my photographs, but they are yours, and whoever flips through the ink coated pages of +90.


Deniz Merdano(gullari)