Sometimes a photo has the power to stop you in your tracks – and this latest image series from Turkish fashion photographer Merve Mataraci does just that.
Merve uses clever juxtaposition of her subjects, intriguing and delicate styling and the amazing light capabilities of the Nikon Z 7 to bring to life a striking series that documents identities, highlighting an‘identity crisis’ between the east and west.
We spoke to Merve about the inspiration behind her shoot and how she combined location, expression, style and equipment to deliver something special.
The Bell Jar
Since I was a child, I’ve always looked for new and different ways to express myself, and thankfully, since adopting photography as a career I’m able to challenge this expression every day, which I feel incredibly grateful for.
A quote from one of the world’s most famous authors and poets, Sylvia Plath, has always inspired me:
“I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I’d never seen before in my life.” ― The Bell Jar
Working with my friend and stylist, I was keen to use this idea of being trapped in shadows and apply it to a photo shoot where a model would represent the need to conform to a western ‘new world’, set against a backdrop of more eastern and historical traditions.
Eminönü, located in the historical peninsula in Istanbul, provided the ideal backdrop. As you walk through the streets, you can see and feel its history, which stretches from the Ottoman Empire. In my opinion it’s this region, connecting Asia to Europe, where you feel the strongest east-west contrast.
We also wanted to work with a model who represented the west, or at least captured the essence of what the western stereotype feels like. Maria Cherepanova , who we found through an amazing Turkish model agency, was perfect!
Working with the right team
I feel blessed to have worked with my stylist, make up artist and assistant for years – a formidable team who share the same vision and imagination.
Working on a project with friends who have the same creative mindset as you certainly makes it easier to bring an idea to life.
This project was no different. Once we’d agreed the location and found the right model, the next step was to ensure the styling and make-up would fit within the framework of a western woman, set against eastern ideas. The clothes my incredible stylist Ilkay found balance a contemporary western style, with a hint of eastern tradition.
I was also keen to use the expression of the model to translate the European identity crisis. In certain shots, she looks like a warrior, ready to embrace her identity and heritage, whereas in others, I was keen for her to use dull expressions to communicate a feeling of “not belonging”.
Of course, no matter how much planning you do in advance, no shoot is without its challenges. Istanbul is Turkey’s busiest city, with a population of 15 million. Our crew was made up of seven people, so we had to move fast, starting in the early hours of the morning, right until the sun set, while avoiding the crazy crowds.
I had high expectations for this shoot with very little margin for error, so I needed to ensure my equipment was just as ready for the challenge. The Z 7 is an extraordinary piece of kit, with a wide dynamic range guaranteeing a super sharp image edge-to-edge. The wide diameter mount also meant that when moving from dark interiors to bright sunlight outside, my camera was always ready. You can see from the images how much fun I had experimenting with shadows, which I don’t think I’d have been able to do with a different camera.
Another benefit of this mirrorless system is the optical viewfinder. You can see and play with the exposure settings and white balance, knowing the picture you see in the viewfinder will be the end result. The LCD display is without a doubt the highest resolution I’ve seen so far.
These functions, paired with the fact the body is super light and transportable, meant that I felt completely relaxed and in control of the entire shoot, which you can’t put a price on.
The NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S lens was my favourite for this shoot, although the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S and NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S boasted similar benefits in terms of sharpness, vivid colour and a powerful, full-frame image.
Merve’s Final Comments
I would describe my style as a fashion photographer fuelled by a love for documenting identities and locations across the globe. I’m planning to develop this concept in a second series, so watch this space! Having the right team and equipment was key – it’s what made this shoot turn out to be better than I ever could have hoped.
You can follow the rest of Merve’s team here:
- Fashion:Ilkay Balkan
- Model: Maria Cherepanova
- Hair: Dogukan Punar
- Make up: Dilara Alpaslan
- Assistant: Oguz Özdemir
For more information on Nikon’s Z system, please visit: https://www.nikon.co.uk/en_GB/products/category_pages/digital_cameras/mirrorless/overview.page