Ebru Yildiz is a New York-based music photographer that we met through Adela Laconte. Active in the New York music scene, she breaks down the role of Reflection and Response in music photography/portraiture into two concurrent yet distinct concepts: a photographer’s effort to capture the musician in his or her response to/through music, and the photographer’s own response to the performance. She showcases some of her recent music photography work, talks about the process of creating meaningful, expressive portraits, and discusses expanding her craft with an upcoming project using a photographic process developed in the 1850s called “wet collodion.” Check the dialogue and prints from this artist steeped deep in exploration and creation!
In order to make meaningful portraits, you really need to have interest in people other than yourself; you need to have a genuine interest what they have to say, what their story is…No two people’s stories are the same, no two people’s feelings could ever be the same when they are faced with similar situations.
– Ebru Yildiz
Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?
EY: I was born and raised in Ankara, Turkey. I moved to New York-where I have always dreamed of living- the minute I finished college. And I started making photos few years after that. When I was in Turkey, I always preferred to go to live shows than any other club scene that was so popular back then. So when I moved here, it took me a minute but I eventually found “the” places to go and see music. I was always at shows, so making photos at the shows came as an extension of that lifestyle. After I developed a certain style that I was happy with, in order to keep things exciting for myself, I decided to take a little break from shooting live shows with exception of occasional shows here and there and focused on personal projects and making portraits. Right now, I think it is a healthy mix of all three.
And I am still in New York where I hope to live for the rest of my days if I am lucky!
What does Reflection and Response mean to you?
EY: When you say response, I can’t help but think the other end of the spectrum, which for me is reaction. I believe being able to respond to things happening to you rather than reacting to them is a difficult form of art to master. Not everybody can succeed in taking the time to think about what is actually happening, listen to how they really feel about it and/or put themselves in the shoes of the other person before they decide how to go about it. I always make a conscious effort to respond to things around me but having the hot Mediterranean blood in me definitely makes it a challenge at times. I only hope at some point in my life, it is going to come naturally.
To me, reflection means to take the time to look at what I have done so far and going forward questioning if I should change anything about them. During this process, being able to acknowledge good as well as bad with all honesty is super crucial. I never understood why people cannot be humble and are so afraid of admitting negative things about themselves. These only show you are a strong person and nothing else. Either ways, I believe even the acknowledgement of the need to change is a gigantic step in and of itself. Being able to make the changes you think you should is a completely other animal though. And it takes time.
How does your work fit in with that definition?
EY: Well, I have never thought about reflection and/or response in terms of my photography but now that I did, I can see that it comes out the most for portraits. The photographer and the subject respond to each other continuously. People feed off of each other. If you are in a good mood, it is going to rub off on people around you, if you are not in a good mood, that is going to rub off on people too. So it is a constant flow of emotions back and forth. I remember I used to try to get a certain emotion out of people, for that reason I liked making people uneasy, and uncomfortable by asking incredibly private questions during the shoot. But right now, I take joy in letting the people I photograph just be. I become mindful of what they allow me to see and try to focus on those. So I guess it is kind of reflecting what I think they project to me back into the photograph, if that makes any sense. But everything is so subjective. At the end it is collaboration. It is my interpretation of what my subjects let me see. Regardless, I personally think that in order to make meaningful portraits, you really need to have interest in people other than yourself; you need to have a genuine interest what they have to say, what their story is.
As for live photographs, I think in those, I am focused on catching musicians’ own response to their own creation, of course that combined with my own response to their music. And like everyone else I respond differently to different music. I heard my husband talking about my work to a friend once; he was saying that he thinks that most of my live photographs are like portraits of those people who happen to be playing a live show. I don’t think I have ever heard a bigger compliment than that.
What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?