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He was arrested on terrorism charges. A few hours later, his website was taken offline and his social media feeds disabled. If found guilty, he could go to jail for 23 years. There, he slowly gained the trust of its underground — accessing and photographing subcultures that have found a way to rebel against the oppressive conservatism of contemporary Turkey.
The results are bold, uncompromising and thrilling. That sense of threat drove people to act in the way they did. Turkey has given certain ideologies a platform — and anyone with opposing thoughts is vilified. They have been pushed into the night. There was, within this volatile environment, a newly liberated LGBT movement, as well as a desire among heterosexuals to experiment.
What was important here was the exhibitionism: doing this not just in front of others, but in the viewfinder of his camera. His photographs became visual, performative acts of rebellion. I was allowed to witness acts at odds with the conservative image of Istanbul.
They trusted me enough to open themselves up for my camera. Being able to photograph that was an amazing experience. People might be repressed during the day but, when the lights go off, everything suddenly explodes. He found a way of expressing his fight against an invisible power — by showing the darkness in which his subjects live.
One of his first images was published by Getty in and used in newspapers around the world. It shows a Kurdish militant operating in Nusaybin, a city in eastern Turkey.