Volume 2014, Issue 11

 

Talking Instagram and
themes with Canan Erbil

 

We were looking through some recent Instagram books the other day when we came across a book called untitled memories by Canan Erbil. There was something in the sustained mood, the selection of images, the sense of place, and the sequencing and the narrative that just kept us looking. It felt wholly considered, visceral, and vital. There was a kind of existential weight and it all seemed to tell—or at least hint at—an enigmatic and personal story. So we took the chance to speak to her about her book and how she put it together.

"I can summarize with three words: Context, shapes and colors," she told us about her sequencing of images. "On Instagram, you never think about context—it automatically comes from a place or a situation which you are in. While deciding sequence, I took the relationships between shapes and colors into consideration, besides the context. Sometimes I put two pictures together just because they seem aesthetic together."

This assistant photography instructor, who originally hails from Turkey, cut her teeth on classic 35mm photography. She describes herself as "a storyteller on Instagram," explaining that, "Continuity and rhythm are the basic elements of my images."

 

"To appear in a frame, it should be something that engages me with the situation: A symbol, a trouble, an emotional something…"

Untitled memories begins with a quote from art theoretician John Berger before launching into the first image—a ripped net against a curtain of fog. The following page offers a pair of images: A hand trailing blood in a bathroom sink and a dilapidated and vandalized changing booth on a cloudy beach.

"This book's story is based upon my self-portraits that I shared on Facebook. One day, a photo editor from New York named Robert Stevens wrote and said, "Canan, you should really make your self portraits into a book." Then he suggested some online publishing companies. And I said, 'Why not?' Then I realized that my self-portraits were not like a series" in and of themselves.

So she decided to offset the self-portraits with other images: A tied and wrapped object in a garden (looking like an abandoned Christo piece), a television shunted off almost out of frame with the cord draping across the wall. There's a sense of fracture in many of the images and Canan appears throughout, though always obscured. At one point we see an IV in her arm—an image matched by a broken picnic table.

She says her self-portraits are different from classic Instagram selfies. "To appear in a frame, it should be something that engages me with the situation: A symbol, a trouble, an emotional something...I used bloody images in general. Because these images point out a space and altitude change (from low level of air pressure to high, from Turkey to Sweden) and nosebleeds are some of my troubles."

 

"The aim was to wait and keep an account of the past while standing at the possible stops of a voyage to be 'myself.' That's all."

She likes that Instagram offers a square frame similar to that of a medium-format camera. Her framing reflects this as well. As to filters, she says, "It's just an opportunity to sustain the film camera effect that I'm used to, and focusing on what I especially want to in a frame, with darker corners or soft transitions between colors."

She says that this first volume, which chronicles her assistantship in Sweden, will not be her last. She likes having these memories in a book that can be found online, where they're no longer confined to her private sketchbooks.

"The aim was to wait and keep an account of the past while standing at the possible stops of a voyage to be 'myself.' That's all."


Kent Hall, Blurb Creative

 

Want to see who else she thinks is a killer Instagram photographer? She gave us her list:

 

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