In the Spotlight: Emrah Özesen

Emrah Özesen was once a student of Literature in Ankara, Turkey. But he found his true calling in photography. He started with capturing the volatile political backdrop of his city but soon diversified himself to explore several other genres of photography. While he has done particularly striking work in the field of sports and action photography, he has established himself as a commercial photographer and his photo-journalistic works have been published in several international publications including the BBC World and Al Jazeera. Recently Echo caught up with Emrah and he shared a few thoughts regarding his work, his preparations for sports photography and his ethics regarding commercial photography.

In order to view his complete Portfolio, you can check Emrah Ozesen Photography.

1. You were studying Russian literature, but you got into professional photography instead. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Emrah Özesen (EO): I have studied in Ankara, the capital of Turkey in one of the hottest universities of that time in terms of political demonstrations and police violence. The 90’s in Turkey were notorious for student movements, mass public demonstrations and anti-democratic implementations of the state just like nowadays. I was shooting the marches, demonstrations, occupy events and police violence both in the university and on the streets. Some local newspapers and fanzines like magazines were publishing my photos.

It was also the time when the citizens of the former USSR were going abroad for the first time in their lives. They were rushing to the beautiful shores of Turkey for holidays. I was always into outdoor sports and I started to work for a rafting company as a raft guide for the summers both to practice my Russian and simply to be on the river. Then after a couple of years I found myself running down the rapids in a kayak and shooting rafting clients. I guess this was my first paid job in photography. After most of the rivers got blocked by huge dams, I settled in Ankara, my home town and started a professional photography career.

2. You have worked as a photo kayaker, which sounds extremely exciting but very difficult to us. Tell us more about it. What kind of equipment do you use here?

EO: It may be a bit difficult but I always think that it is the best job in the world. You need to be physically fit to run 14 kms of class 4+ white water every day, never mind the never-ending parties every night. You have to be fast all the times while on a rapid or at the shore running over the rocks to reach you photo point. Picking up the right spots, on the river and after each spot where the rafts pass by, you have to catch them, pass them again and get ready on the next photo point. You have to be faster than any raft in your group, you cant make the client wait for the photographer in the entrance of a rapid. It goes on and on all through the day. Keeping the photography equipment dry is another challenge. I’ve seen fellow colleagues dropping their cameras into the river, or the ones who open their dry boxes and see that their cameras are swimming in the case since they swam the previous rapid wildly. And sometimes it rains a lot and err… you just paddle for your life.

Apart from the river gear most of the times I used Canon EOS 650 analog SLR with a 70-300 telephoto zoom on. This was the early 2000’s and after a while I converted to digital technology. I used Canon 350Ds, 400Ds and 60D for a long time. I can say the most important gear was a towel to dry your face and hands before you touch you camera.

3. You do a lot of sports photography too. What kind of preparations do you need to do before a sports shoot?

EO: I can say that I have a little advantage in sports photography since I have got my masters degree in Sports Management and Sports Marketing. In sports photography I try to be in full contact, both with the client and the agency who runs the campaign. I try to fully understand the expectations of both the parties. I do research to avoid shots that have already been taken by another photographer. I attend every meeting with the creative staff and actively participate in the process of creating the concept.

I also read the history of the team or the athlete. I try to fully understand the philosophy of my subject. I gather as much information as possible about the people that I’m going to photograph. Then I start to think about the images, facial expressions body positions and I draw them on paper. I believe that a decent planning and being fully prepared at the location and knowing what exactly to get after the shooting session is essential. Technically, I prepare every single equipment a day before the shooting. I always carry a back up camera just in case. Actually half of my equipment that fill all the space of my car are the backups that I never use most of the times.

4. When you photograph the interiors, do you just shoot them as it is or do you adjust the settings as per you vision?

EO: I adjust the setting but when I do it I try to keep the adjustments minimal to maintain the originality. From my point of view there is no use of getting an extremely perfect image that doesn’t represent the reality. That’s not honest, and is deceptive for the people who consume the service or the product. I can arrange a super hyper cool interior setting for a hype restaurant, shoot it and convince agency to use that in the ads. But when client arrives to that restaurant and see a totally different atmosphere they may have feel cheated.

I don’t think that bending the reality is ethical even in the advertisement photography, we can polish the reality but I don’t get involved in bending it into some other thing.

5. How important do you think it is to have an online presence for photographers and other creative professionals such as you?

EO: I guess it is the most important aspect of business. Its more functional than the office. It is actually your digital office where you have to appear wise and smart. It is your showcase and meeting place with your clients. Clients make their decisions based on your portfolio. The place where they see your portfolio is that digital platform. Having a good portfolio is one thing but the platform that clients see your portfolio should be flawless, fast, smooth and as accurate as clockwork.

6. Finally, tell us about your experience in building your website using Pixpa.

EO: I’m using internet as a medium to meet with people who may need my skills for more than 10 years now. I remember working with Graphic Designers to create a web site to represent my work. I’m thankful to those people but that process was taking days. The sub structure of the site was an other issue. We’d created nice web sites to represent my work those days. But changing the content and even making little arrangements on the site was a time consuming deal involving assistance of others. I’ve tried some template web sites for some time to be independent on managing my web site and they were also far away from meeting my expectations. Somehow, at the end I was finding myself Googling for hours to find how to change a photograph on my website properly or how to add logos etc. They were always too complicated and always useless at the end. I always thought, ‘why it is so hard to create an appealing website where I can fully control the content and the design?’

Finally a year ago, I found Pixpa. I was a bit prejudiced since I had unpleasant experiences with some other template sites but I was so helpless that I gave a try to the free trial. It took only 2 hours for me to get what I want. The interface of the control panel was unbelievably well designed and user friendly. I didn’t believe at the first place that it would be that easy and I started to test it in different browsers and PCs. I also tested the customer service just in case. They were always there replying my mail in minutes. The same day I registered myself for the starter subscription. Now I have total control on my websites, I am able to change whichever content I want just in seconds. It is definitely a sweet freedom that I’d missed for years.

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