Selim SÜME | Interview (Issue #51)

Selim Süme

The following interview with Selim Süme has been made in 2016 by Kontrast Magazine:

How would you describe your project? What does “Tekerrür” (recurrence) mean and what does it aim at?

The book “Tekerrür” consists of 80 found passport photos which have been reproduced and resized, and accompanied by texts. I can say that “Tekerrür” (recurrence), when separated from its function as photographic imaging, is an experimentation to search for the problem of representation, as well as, see the effects on the observers or how and where we position ourselves by taking the point of view of portrait photography as the starting point, all these served with an artistic approach.

As can be understood from the dictionary definition, the term passport photograph points to and describes the subject. This effort to define the term also appears continuously in its relationship with reality since photography was developed and plays an important role in our acquisition of it. This series tries to present the disappearance of identity, its dematerialization, which is fundamentally against the nature and the definition of the term passport photography.

Why have you chosen to call the series “Tekerrür” (recurrence)? 

As I mentioned before, I kept the photographs saved under a file named “document” at my workplace. At that time, for me, the series was a “Document”. Then, after agreeing with Özgür to detach the photos from their former function and change the form, we decided to put it on the shelf for a while to decide on a title later on. The effort to question the point of view that could not be captured or defined by looking at the portraits in succession in the book was one of the reasons why we named it “Tekerrür”.

How did you choose the 80 photos in the book?

I bought them all as a series enclosed in an envelope from an antiquarian at an auction 4 years ago. There actually was no such thing as photo selection for the book. I used them all.

How did you create the texts for the photos? Who wrote them??

The texts were written by the psychiatrist Özgür Öğütcen. It is actually difficult to say. I guess we could call them experimental. I left it to Özgür. He was involved in the whole writing process. I just briefly described to him what I wanted to do with the photos and asked him to write texts that did not have a direct relationship to the photos and had a central but pure point of view.

What was your source of inspiration, if any (literature, psychology etc.)?

I can’t say that I had one, but, for the last couple of years, I have been reading books written by Bergson, Freud, Lacan and Zizek. In the classes I attended at Marmara University, Ezgi Bakçay and Zeynep Sayın were also very inspiring and a mind opener. Lale Barlas, my girlfriend, is also a psychologist. The long conversations we had may also have inspired me.

Can you tell us a little bit about the design of the book?

What I desired most for the design of the book was that the photographs were full-page and the average human head size. We also decided that the texts should be put (actually “hidden”) inside the book in Turkish and English. Another important point in the design of the book was to ensure that the reader of the text could escape from the looks of the people in the photographs. That’s why we tried to make a design where the “Look” could observe you reading the text. Throughout the process, Melahat Çakır and Okay Karadayılar helped with the design of the book. And Nazım Dikbaş translated the texts into English.

Can you tell us about your views on the use of photography as a form of art today compared to the one in the past?

Photography, in this geography (Turkey), has come very close to contemporary art, especially in the last 20 years. In this sense, we can say that it has added variety to the functions and uses of photography.  With the artist choosing the photograph as a medium, the photographer started to open up new discussion topics through the concept of subjectivity and image which he added on the subject, except for the fact that it reflects the quality and reality. I think today is the most liberating day as photography has started to question the meaning-function-consumption-experience concepts along with the digital revolution and that it has broken the acceptance of the reality that sticks to it.

You are one of the photographers who are working on the subject of found photography and appropriation. Could you tell us your thought on this subject as artistic production?

I think that found photography is an ideal object to discuss the concepts of taking or making photography. I think that a photograph says more than the world of reality, that it is more than recording the image standing in the light and what it leaves in the film-sensor. Contrary to the painting tradition, in which art is created on a white background from scratch, photography takes the role of some kind of a gatherer. This may sometimes be either in the form of taking or making the photo or saying a word on the found photos that you collected. Here, we have to consider the process of producing the photo, and more than that, as the central point, the esthetics when implementing montage techniques. The words said by the ones who take-make-collect the photographs become visible through montage. This does not only point to the produced work as a projection, but also as a combined work nurtured by an idea. In this sense, photography allows for new analysis.

Can you tell us about your recent work? How would you describe your work?

After finishing the book, Ezgi Bakçay and I worked on an exhibition where we were co-curators. We worked with 18 artists for the exhibition called “Toplayıcılar // Les glaneurs et les glaneuses” (translated as “The collectors”), which will be open at Versus Art Project from 14 July to 13 August 2017. The central point of this exhibition is actually part of my recent work. The photos that I used for my book “Tekerrür” and the exhibition “Toplayıcılar” (The collectors) as a co-curator is grounded on the same basis, i.e. the same problem. As a curator, I can say that it is an exhibition process that takes the focus to think over the photos I didn’t produce, as it is the case with the found photographs in my book. My work called “Tekerrür” was the only photo series in the exhibition. Right now, I can tell you that I have started a new process that is questioning the slippery relationship between photography and reality. I’m working on a new photo series at the moment. In short, I have been trying to produce works on an approach that explores the relationship between time and space, between photography and the representation of reality and truth.