Çağdaş Erdoğan’s Night Journey



Alone, those who know where they are going take to the road. If the days are uncertain, taking the road at night is easier and safer. When he pulled off the comforter under which he had taken refuge, no longer bearing the slightest ray of sunlight, traumatized by the ugly war to which he was subjected as a child, Çağdaş Erdoğan woke up in the darkness of Istanbul. Perhaps this is why he wasn’t disoriented by what he saw…

At the beginning of the new millenial, the climate in the country had changed a bit. The fact that the traditional powerholder had given up the spot to its eternal opponent had allowed for a relative détente. But the situation had only changed as to whom exercised power. The rethoric of exclusions and discrimination against its subjects was still well entrenched.

The period when his interior world and contemporary life met occurred when the young photographer Çağdaş Erdoğan encountered « the other ». His social entourage in the big city was naturally that of Kurds and Alevis attempting to hang on after their forced exile. In his new home, other identities were his neighbors: the Rroms, groups with different sexual tendencies, fractions opting for violence as their mode of operation…In the darkness of Istanbul, there were also those who died from the bullets shot in the drug traffic, those who allowed their bodies to be torn to death in dog fights. In the final analysis, those who lost their life by gunshot in the middle of the street, and those who gave city dwellers momentary pleasures were inhabitants of the same neighborhood.

On the roadmap he called “Night Blind”, Çağdaş Erdoğan kept straight on course on his night journey. It was, at some level, the reason for his installation in the Gazi neighborhood in 2014. Because, in this neighborhood, he didn’t feel estranged from the adventures that feed his story.

Perhaps the contemporary ghettos born from the burned-out villages and hamlets of the nineties live on for that very reason, as déjà-vu of another annihilation. Even if the “Serenity” operations are carried out by politicians as “urban modernization”, in fact, what goes on is purification of those spaces. As in Sulukule, where an entire era of the Rroms with their own lifestyle was sacrificed to a monotonous rehabilitation… soon, the same thing will happen in these ghettos. Insufficient numbers of schools and classes may be put at the disposal of the younger generation. The children and the young people attempt to prove they exist in other ways. To succeed maybe, in dismembering a rival dog. Sometimes, in the weightlessness provided by a synthetic drug…When the traditional inhabitants of the city go to sleep, life begins for them. People from very diverse social groups and professions then take part in extraordinary parties in extreme conditions, living a life they cannot carry out at an ordinary level.

Çağdaş Erdoğan who spent his childhood in forced exile in Bursa, a conservative town sheltering numerous exiles, was a witness to all that and documented what he saw. He noticed that the discrimination and the responses to it were locked together in the nights. Trans sexual workers, the sculpture of the Bull [traditional emblem of the Kadıköy neighborhood] with its paws nailed into the concrete so that passers by may take souvenir photos, the taxi driver stuck in a demonstration and dreaming of long ride whose vehicle is requisitioned for a barricade, the activist in the red mask, letting himself be cradled by tear gas…

Like everything else, Çağdaş Erdoğan’s life took him far away from Muş, his native town. The agency work he practiced during his first enthusiasm as a photo-journalist didn’t last long. Even if seeing his work in the pages of The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, BBC moved him, it fell behind like a fleeting aspiration.

Last winter, new horizons opened up thanks to the workshop on book layouts organized by the FUAM (Center for research and applied photography) at the Mimar Sinan University of Istanbul. The persons in charge of Akina Books, an international publishing house, much appreciated his work. They then offered to publish his story, in a book series, in a way he hadn’t even imagined. Çağdaş Erdoğan did not turn down this pleasant surprise.

His photographies “the color of night”, unimaginable and indescribable photographies of those who had trusted him and opened the doors to their craziest pleasures, would find a place in bookstores and libraries as witnesses to a period. The most extraordinary “depravities”, the contradictions and contrasts within the country’s most convervative period would find a chance to express themselves in the language of photography.

“…Nothing was like it had been before. In fact, nothing has ever been as it was before. Centuries have rolled on after the great catastrophy. According to rumors, there was a time when people lived who could testify to the sun’s existence. The two heads of Cerberus had not been sacrified at Erebus yet. Sodom and Gomorrah had not been devastated and the Laws of Hammurabi were still in place… »

Çağdaş Erdoğan proved it was possible to tell stories without having attended photography classes transformed into dating sites, without benefit of the legacy from unique photos the fame of which is on every tongue, and while ignoring the big-prize competitions.

His book was published by Akina Books under the title of “Control”. It found it’s place in all serious festivals and bookshops outside Turkey.

The British Journal of Photography (BJP), a respectable magazine on photographic culture added Çağdaş Erdoğan to the “List of promising young photographers to watch”. At the same time, he was included with other talented photographers of the new generation in a training program called SO sheltered by 140Journos, and he tracked down new stories, from Istanbul to Artvin, from Diyarbakır to Cizre.

Until his arrest last week, after twelve days in custody when he was signed up as the 172nd journalist detained in Turkish prisons.

We await Çağdaş Erdoğan’s speedy liberation so that he may pursue his journey with wisdom, instinct, sharing and solidarity in an atmosphere where truths and errors propagate at the speed of light. So that he can continue to question the country, the city, the night and the day, and seek answers.

“By the way, Babel, where were you?
Who were those masked clowns…?”

By Selahattin Sevi, published in medium.com and kedistan.net

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