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Far: Reviewed by Zach Stieneker


Book Review Far Photographs by Ekin Küçük Reviewed by Zach Stieneker "A haiku from one of Japan’s “Great Four” masters, Issa, greets us as we lift the iridescent cover of Ekin Küçük’s Far. “In the city fields / contemplating cherry trees / strangers are like friends.” We then turn the sheer page to enter Küçük’s ink-heavy, black-and-white record of contemporary urban Japan."

Far. By Ekin Küçük.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ301
Far  
Photographs by Ekin Küçük

self published, 2019. 160 pp., 7½x10½".

A haiku from one of Japan’s “Great Four” masters, Issa, greets us as we lift the iridescent cover of Ekin Küçük’s Far. “In the city fields / contemplating cherry trees / strangers are like friends.” We then turn the sheer page to enter Küçük’s ink-heavy, black-and-white record of contemporary urban Japan. Framed by this epigraph, we might expect scenes of amity despite the surrounding anonymity, moments of shared experience in which strangeness blossoms into familiarity. We might expect communion.

However, the book’s many photographs of people quickly and beautifully skew these expectations. The images are often made unbeknownst to their subjects, either from behind or mediated by some layer of opacity; instead of conveying friendship, they emphasize unknowability — distance rather than intimacy.

FarBy Ekin Küçük.

The first figure, for example, faces away from the camera and occupies most of the frame as a corpulent, looming mass of shadow. A play of perspective shrinks the woman passing beside him, rendering his silhouette even more imposing. It’s a compelling image, but there is certainly no discernible sense of friendship, a common thread among the series of images to follow. As the book unfolds, the eyes of animals, both dead and alive, meet the camera’s gaze more regularly than humans.

FarBy Ekin Küçük.
Küçük’s aesthetic, with tones regularly pushed to the poles, impenetrable blacks and bleached whites, along with heavy use of grain and blur, augments the sense of inscrutability that blankets the work. In an early portrait a spectral, mask-like countenance floats over a field of darkness, identifiable as a face only by the most basic shapes and contours. Many of the images are made through barriers –– rain-streaked windows, curtains, and chainlink fences become obstructions between the photographer and her subjects. From the sidewalk, she peers into restaurants and bars. These images bespeak a familiar metropolitan reality: the uncanny simultaneity of togetherness and separation.

Importantly, the graphic qualities of the book place it within the lineage of Provoke era post-war Japanese photography and artists like Daido Moriyama. Further nuancing the book’s conception of distance, Küçük is herself Turkish, both an outsider on the streets in which she photographs and the greater artistic tradition in which she presents them. Fans of the 20th-century vanguard of Japanese street photography will likely be interested by the dialogue Far elicits as it explores similar streets in a similar style but from an outsider’s perspective.

FarBy Ekin Küçük.

In Küçük’s diaristic account, there is also a current of superficial sex charging the work with the feeling of a one-night stand: a frantic, bottled encounter between people that comes to be labeled by its finality. There’s a sampling of framed photographs of faceless female bodies; a sign that advertises “Loove 24H”; one poster of a topless woman looking over her shoulder, lowering her underwear and another of Marilyn Monroe; a suggestive pairing of white high heels and a male gaze; a glossy, nude female robot. Here, again, the space between intimacy and anonymity is liminal.

There is, however, a piercing glimpse of knowingness found in a portrait of a woman, reclined, hands behind her head, with the hint of an almost flirtatious smile waxing across her face. It feels close, like the possibility of closing a distance. A meeting, a discovery, from among the multitudes, of another cherry tree contemplator.

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FarBy Ekin Küçük.
FarBy Ekin Küçük.


Zach Stieneker holds a BA in English and Spanish from Emory University. Following graduation, he spent several months continuing his study of photography in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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