Sırma Aksüyek (b.1989, Istanbul) is a photographer. She received her BA in Arts Management from Bilgi University, Turkey and her MA in photography, Los Angeles, California, USA. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions including; Fortitude, Istanbul, Turkey (2019) and Fortitude, Norway (2017), Dalga, Istanbul, Turkey (2015), Usulca, Istanbul, Turkey (2014), Tadımlık, Istanbul, Turkey (2014), The Real Thing, Istanbul, Turkey and Is this Love?, Istanbul, Turkey.
In 2016, she was selected as the artist of the month by dualitymag.com. Her her work were presented by the Photography Department of New York Film Academy.
Who inspires you as a photographer?
I used to be fascinated by Nan Goldin. Due to a difficult period of time I’d been through before college, I was highly interested in rigid, darksome photographs revolving around weighty matters. In time, I've also become interested in Cindy Sherman’s photographs. All of the projects I created were about autoportraits such as my project named Misfit which was about a story of a refuser woman. It blossomed out under the influence of Cindy Sherman.
What strikes you the most about photography?
Seizing the moment.
We record the moments in our memories and they are shaped in time. Sometimes we remember them falsely as they take different forms in our minds. One of the things about photography that fascinates me is that the moment you capture through photography becomes immortalized, as if you pull a certain piece from the passing time that we are unable to stop.
Is there any recurring theme/question in your practice?
Our lives, our emotions and people around us, everything is personal. In the photograph of the girl with her hands placed in her heart, her face is purposely absent in the photograph. Her hand gesture is universal. Essentially, it recalls feelings such as compassion, heart and mercy. The fact that different lives and bodies evoke the same emotion in one pose fascinates me. I can make sense of sadness of the bearing of your hand, or reflect my feelings to you and create new feelings through you from the pose you stand with your eyes closed in a natural light. It’s always been my interest how these things make me feel, aside from personality and body of the figure in the photograph.
What are three essential elements of photography for you?
Light. The feeling that is reflected through shadow is utterly different. Naturality. Adding a new layer to a photograph by photoshop is not something I'm interested in. Capturing the moment as it is, is significant.
Also, the feeling that is evoked by the moment is one of the essential elements of photography, though it may be something subjective
What kind of experiences you’ve been through in the contemporary art scene after graduation?
During my college years, I was curious about the way people express themselves through photography. Learning more about the techniques in photography, the way the moments are turned into a photograph independently from emotions motivated me to capture what I see in its simplest form. After graduating from school, I was having a fancy for stopping time through photography. My approach in photography during college and after finishing college are two different periods of time.
During my undergraduation, I made a project named Suicidal Unicorn. It tells of how melancholic and how suicidal can unicorn get, something that is perceived as sweet and childish by many. There were photographs that I curated in depressed, dark settings, shooting myself as if I’m drowning in a bathtub or hanging up myself. And so on, I created another series Peaceful Death during the time I lost my grandmother when I was in California, after finishing the university. It was harder to accept the loss of a loved one from afar. Death is universal, everyone experiences it at some point in their lives, despite their age, gender or race. For this reason I used models of every age, making them lay on bathtubs. I asked them to gently, peacefully float on the water that I encolored and splattered flowers on these models according to the colors and feelings of the mood. At the time, it was my way of accepting death. In time, I think my practice came into a point of turning into a softer, more inclusive approach from a darksome, rigid point of view.
Who inspires you?
I used to be inspired a lot by the pioneers of the modern novel in Turkey, such as Özdemir Asaf, Cemal Süreya, Tezer Özlü, Oğuz Atay. My biggest desire would be to get together at a raki table with them. It’s a mind of a genius(referring to Cemal Süreya) how he decides to drop one of the letters ‘y’ from his surname one night. It would have been one hell of a night to get together with them.
I used to be interested in writers and their lives. Currently, I follow performance artists. Though I can’t keep up with them daily, every performance I witness interests me a lot. There’s nothing fictional about it. You have no idea what’s gonna happen the next moment, you feel the uncertainty of that moment. You don’t know how it’s gonna affect you emotionally. I like the aspect of performance art that keeps you alive in that moment.
What makes the Durak series different from other photography series of yours?
I like the title of the series Durak, meaning a stop in Turkish. I think about a lot why I named the series it as Durak. Durak is a place where you pause in the flow of life. It motivates you to stop what you’re doing in life in order to capture the moment.
In each of our lives, there are stops that we choose to arrive. The stops that I choose have always changed in my life. Durak is the entirety of the things that I stop for the sake of my choices, my psychology and my life. It is the answer to the question: “What did Sırma choose to stop for?”. As the exhibition Durak also being one of the stops of my life, I like its name.