This week, the Women’s Street Photography Collective (Streets Ahead) is please and honoured to feature Basak Aytek in our interview segment. Although relatively new to street photography, Basak’s work reveals that she has a gift for capturing the moment. Her willingness to learn and absorb information and advice given to her by other street photographers has resulted in an engaging body of work.
I highly recommend a visit to her galleries
You can follow Basak on Instagram and Eye’Em: @basakaytek
Image ©Basak Aytek
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. Have you always been interested in photography?
I work as a human resources and quality professional in the field of medical equipment. I am 40 years old and a proud mother of two kids, 7 and 12 years old. I was first introduced to photography by a colleague almost 20 years ago but somehow could not keep going. Although I’ve always enjoyed taking photos, Tuba Korhan is the one who encouraged me to start shooting again and she is also the one who introduced me to this fabulous group. I am really thankful to her for that.
‘Balloon Head’ – ©Basak Aytek
Where do you currently live? Is this a place that gives you energy and inspiration for your street photography or do you have to travel to find it?
I live in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. Though I like living here (where I was born and raised), I can’t say that it is a city of inspiration and energy. However, I see amazing photos of many talented photographers who capture interesting moments in very ordinary places. I think having a good eye is the most important issue. As I am not at that point yet, travelling helps.
‘Envy’ – ©Basak Aytek
Does your location, be it a big city, a small town, or the countryside, heavily inform all your photographs in general, not just your street photographs? How do you choose the places that you go to photograph?
Unfortunately, I don’t have much time for photo walks in my routine life. I mostly shoot during my travels. I feel much more comfortable in foreign and touristic/crowded places where I won’t draw people’s attention.
‘The Fish and The Fisherman’ – ©Basak Aytek
What first drew you to street photography and how did you discover it? What is it about street photography that compels you go out to shoot on the street? What are the subjects that are of the greatest interest to you?
I attended a workshop of Engin Güneysu, a Turkish photojournalist and street photographer and looked at the works of the photographers that he recommended to us. Their work fascinated me. I was not aware of such a genre before. It is very challenging and mind-blowing. You have to see, guess what can happen next and shoot exactly at the right moment. People, their emotions, the interaction between each other and with the photographer and having the chance to reflect this exact moment really strikes me.
‘New Generation – Old Generation’ – ©Basak Aytek
Do you sometimes secretly pose or direct the subjects in your shots or do you always shoot spontaneously? Do you think there is a “right” way to take a street photograph? There are those who feel that a photograph is only good if it follows certain guidelines and fundamentals such as “the decisive moment” or that street photography should never be posed. How do you feel about this?
Although I do both, I mostly try to shoot secretly, pretending to photograph something else or look like I am playing with my phone. I personally prefer candid photos. Even if there is a ‘right way’ for street photography, I am not the authority on this. Candid or posed, photos that reflect an emotion, a daily situation in street life or that make you think about the story behind the image impress me.
‘The Delicatessen Man’ – ©Basak Aytek
How do you feel about shooting from the hip as opposed to looking though the viewfinder?
Shooting from the hip is a very good option for capturing interesting photos with a different angle of view. However, I am not very experienced and I feel much more comfortable looking through the viewfinder. Instead of shooting from the hip, you can see me on the floor trying to balance myself and shoot.
‘Old Lady in Rhodes’ – ©Basak Aytek
These days, the genre raises many questions with regards to the morals and ethics of taking photographs of strangers in a public environment. It is becoming increasingly difficult to shoot freely as a street photographer. What are your thoughts on this?
Well, I also have concerns. I was once questioned by a passenger on the metro in Berlin and she asked me why I was taking photos of strangers and their kids. I mostly feel shy and sometimes even nervous while shooting as I am aware of the possibility of a negative reaction. But at the same time, this is the reason I like street photography. Street photos show people exactly as they look on the street where they are in public, not in their bedroom. Even if people might not like the idea of being photographed at that moment, I’m quite sure that they would be flattered with the idea that they or their kids/grandkids might happen to see their photos sometime/somewhere at some point in the future.
‘On his way’ – ©Basak Aytek
How do you feel about using model release forms and re-publication of images of the public? Are we morally, if not legally responsible?
I do not shoot and publish for commercial purposes. Therefore, I don’t see any reason to use model release forms. However, for commercial purposes, it should be considered.
‘Going up the hill’ – ©Basak Aytek
Do you have any personal rules when it comes to street photography? For instance, are there any situations that you feel are morally unacceptable?
To be honest, I don’t like asking people before I shoot as it will not be a candid photo anymore and won’t reflect the real situation. I can’t give you a list of rules but as long as I am comfortable with what I do, it is fine.
‘The Tunnel’ – ©Basak Aytek
Do you think women street photographers share a different perspective to men? If so, can you elaborate on your thoughts?
Genders for sure may affect the perspective of people, not only in photography but also in many fields of art and life. But it should not be considered as the only or the most important issue. There are many factors such as the country and the culture that you were born and raised, childhood, educational background, experiences etc. Perspective should not be limited to genders.
‘Bicycle’ – ©Basak Aytek
As a woman street photographer, do you find yourself drawn to shooting other women and children or do you prefer to shoot men or is this irrelevant? Would you feel uncomfortable if a male street photographer were to take a photograph of you?
I like shooting people. No matter if they are children, men or women. However, lately, I realised that I am much more interested in shooting old people. In the past, I would have felt uncomfortable if someone (male or female) were to take a photo of me. But now I know why and I would only worry if I looked good I am not that photogenic. 😉
‘Women are aware as always’ – ©Basak Aytek
Do you think women street photographers are more accepted by the public when taking photographs or do you think they are more likely to be challenged? Do you have any experience of this?
I think it depends on the situation and the place. While women street photographers are more accepted in some places/situations, there are places where being a man would be advantageous. For me, I prefer to shoot in crowded/safer places without getting noticed.
‘The Girl in Pink’ ©Basak Aytek
This is the first photo that I submitted to the ‘Streets Ahead’ group and it is also the first that was featured in the Appwhisperer’s weekly showcase. I still remember how I was surprised and flattered. Recently, it was also featured as one of the best iPhone photos of 2014 by the iPhone Photography School. I like the melancholic look on on her face in complete contrast with the colourful clothes and surrounding.
Which street photographers have influenced you?
In fact, the list could be too long. The work of street photographers like Vivian Maier really strikes me. In the circumstances of the time, they did a great job. Each member of Streets Ahead community as well as many photographers I follow on Instagram, EyeEm, Flickr all inspire me. Let me list my favourite Turkish street photographers Ara Güler, Engin Güneysu, Hüseyin Türk, Erdal Kınacı and Elif Suyabatmaz.
‘Hope in the darkness’ – ©Basak Aytek
This image was captured and edited on an iPhone 5. My editing process was very limited as usual. I used Snapseed to crop the image and adjust the brightness and contrast.
This place is a memorial in Berlin for the victims of war and dictatorship with a sculpture (Mother with Her Dead Son) in the middle. The circular skylight on the top is the only light source of this place. Together with the silence inside and the kids playing around, it is a perfect place to highlight the contrasts of life – life and death, darkness and hope, joy and sadness.
Which mobile device do you use to take your photographs? Do you post-process your photographs? If so, what are your favorite post-processing techniques/apps? If you post-process on your mobile device, do you usually transfer the images as soon as they have been processed to social sites (in other words, capturing and editing the image while in situ) or do you prefer to have more time to work on your images? Please share some examples of your workflow process.
I recently got an iPhone 6, but before I mostly used the native camera of the iPhone 5 to take photographs. I rarely use Oggl and ProCamera. I edit on my iPad and mostly use Snapseed or try different combos of Oggl. There are a few apps I would like to work with but unfortunately I am not able to do that yet. I don’t spend much time on post-processing. I prefer to work on my images before sharing but I also prefer not to edit too much.
‘Ladies’ talk’ ©Basak Aytek
Strolling on the streets of Sicily is really a great opportunity for a street photographer. Old people enjoy spending time outside and it seems like everyone knows each other. These ladies were so concentrated on their subject that they did not even notice me. I did minor adjustments in Snapseed to emphasise the harmony between the subjects and the background which I loved the texture of.
Do you pre-mediate the capture of your images? Do you have a plan or structure in place or do you prefer to act spontaneously? Please share your thoughts about some of your images what you were thinking, or felt when you shot those photographs.
My main goal as a beginner is to shoot as much as I can and get experience. I mostly act spontaneously. If I see a place with good light conditions or an interesting background/person, I wait for the right moment.
‘Catch me if you can’ ©Basak Aytek
While strolling through the streets of Lindos, I saw two little girls running down the street. They were so full of energy and eagerly looking forward to going to the beach that the old lady behind was forcing herself catch up with them. I got down on my knees and waited until the right moment.
What is the importance of street photography within the entire body of your work? To what extent is street photography a major focus for you?
Well my work is very limited for now. But I can at least say that street photography is my major focus. It is a single, instantaneous moment and won’t be repeated again. The pleasure of being able to capture this moment is priceless.
‘Looking away’ ©Basak Aytek
I was sitting next to the elder woman outside a cafe in Berlin looking for an opportunity to take a good shot of her. Then I saw the couple approaching her and I achieved more than I could wish. I took several photos repeatedly. And here it is the exact moment while he was kissing the elder woman and the younger one was not so happy about it.
Who do you think is the audience for your work? Is this who you want your audience to be? What is it you hope to achieve, either on a personal or professional level, with your body of work?
As I said, I’m a beginner and my audience is mostly my friends, and people who somehow see my photos on social media platforms and start following. I don’t have a professional expectation. But, of course I would like to see my photos in competitions, exhibitions, social projects in the future. Who knows?
‘A Russian wedding in Rhodes’ ©Basak Aytek
This place is Kallithea Springs in Rhodes where there is a restored monument next to the sea. Ceremonies take place at this magical place and I fortunately came across one of them. It was so obvious how this couple love and value each other that I took many photos of them. This one seems to be the most natural one that shows the way bridegroom cares of his lovely bride.
What do you think distinguishes your street photography from others in the group?
Well, to be honest I really don’t know. Everyone in the group is very talented for sure and most are much more experienced than I am. I can only learn from the group and appreciate any advice or feedback on my photos.
‘Elegant Sicilian man’ ©Basak Aytek
This man was so elegant in his suit that I wanted to shoot him. I followed him for a while but could not get a clear view. This was the moment he noticed me and suddenly turned back. Although the background is very crowded, I still like this shot. Maybe that is because of the nice chat we had after.
Where do you show your work? How has social media played a role in your photography? Which platforms are you most active on?
I am active on Instagram, Flickr and Eyeem. It is great to be appreciated and it motivates me very positively.
‘Deeply Lined’ – ©Basak Aytek
Do you have any tips that you would like to share with us? Is there anything else you would like to add?
Let me give tips for beginners like me. Shoot as much as you can. Most of the shots could be a disaster. Don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t think too much about the camera settings. Instead work on the composition and light conditions. Join the groups, follow as many street photographers as you can and read the literature. Don’t waste too much time for post processing. First, shoot properly. Post-processing will follow. Above all, have the courage to approach and shoot your subject. Whenever I do this, I never regret it. Thank you for this opportunity and support. This means a lot to me.
‘Leaving the scene’ ©Basak Aytek