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Çağla Polat

10 June 2021

Isanbul-based student Çağla Polat, has a distinct approach to her photography which combines sombre city scenes with cyberpunk-inspired colours and double exposures. Keep reading to find out more about what influences her work and how posting travel photos to Instagram kickstarted her photography journey.

What's your backstory?

Hi! I'm 20 years old, a student, photographer, and illustrator from Istanbul, Turkey. I'm soon going to be starting my 3rd year of Arts and Culture Management degree.

How did you first start out in photography?

I am one of those people who loves to take pictures during travels and initially it was just a hobby. In August 2018, I decided to start an Instagram page for my archive; it wasn't a big deal at first but the page grew so fast that I couldn't believe it. I realized that people really appreciate my work and I told myself that "maybe I need to take it a bit more seriously". Since that moment I never stopped shooting.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I grew up with video games, that's the biggest impact for me. I've always been amazed by the beautiful scenes and the story behind them. Also movies; Gaspar Noe is a huge inspiration source for me for a long time, as well as Andrei Tarkovsky, Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

How would you describe your style?

That's so hard to answer for me, but in general, I love melancholy and dynamism. I know they sound literally the opposite of each other but my works reflect the loneliness of people who live in a society.

What subjects do you like to shoot?

Everything becomes magical at night for me; streets, lights, people, raindrops, snowflakes. I grew up with the cyberpunk genre and have been interested in it for years, and my main goal is to capture the vibe of it in my photos. I generally shoot in my city, although sometimes abroad when on travels, and more recently, at home due to COVID-19. The pandemic took me to a different place where I create my works with emotions; before that my priority was the aesthetic of night. Now I combine my night photography with movement, and double exposures.

Forgotten places, foggy scenes, people and places that hard to recognize; I love working on subjects like these. I don't have any models (sometimes), so my works are often based on luck.

How do you know when you've got "the shot"?

After I spend my time while shooting outside, I analyze the frames very fast; at this point, I visualize the "after version" of them in my mind. Generally, they turn out how I wanted after editing, but sometimes I need to wait for a while; details can be unseen at that moment for me. If I work on a single image, I focus on lights and symmetry, sometimes I wait for people to walk by. After that, it's taken into Lightroom. If I need to combine two or three images I usually take a picture of that thing multiple times. Birds, silhouettes, light leaks, roads, or whatever I find interesting.

How do you achieve the look in your photos?

My editing process is kinda crazy. People get really shocked when they see any before and afters. Also, I must confess that I use my digital camera in full auto mode. I generally play with every setting about colors in Lightroom and I love giving depth to my photos with vignettes; this two-step is a must for me. I mainly combine three images. For Instance, let's say the first one portrait, the second one for the blurry neon lights, and the third one is for any additional details like birds.

Before and after editing

How do you feel your style has changed/evolved over the years?

At the beginning (August 2018), I was only focused on night photography with neon details. This lasted one and a half years and after that, I took a long break. It felt like I was stuck in a place; thought my passion is over for photography. In the first month of the pandemic, I decided to turn back to photography but without my comfort zone. I realized that I needed to try new things as well as what I want to do. Now besides night scenes, I work on experimental compositions.

Do you have any photos that you are particularly proud of?

I captured this at the beginning of this year while going back to my city by bus. It was 4 am and snowy outside, which was so sad because I wasn't able to go outside and shoot. Somehow I managed to catch clear images through the bus window and this is one of them. The background, snow, electric wires, neon sign, and the whole atmosphere... I am still shocked.

What advice would you have for people getting into photography?

I am still in a learning process, trying to find my path; but I must say that this is based on practice and patience (which I still struggle with). Michelangelo said: "Ancora imparo" at the age of 83. That means "I'm still learning."

What are your thoughts on Instagram as a photography platform?

Instagram is such a scary place for me and honestly, I can't take it anymore. I don't know where to start but first of all, I don't do this for posting; I do photography because I love it. Somehow, I still feel like I should post something to not lose followers at the end of the day, not because of my passion.

The algorithm, similar pages promoting similar artists, also pages that want money just to share your works on their social media, always the same contents being hyped so your works seem not right to yourself. Should I continue?

At least I met amazing people from all around the world through my account. I love to keep in touch with them, talking about our passions and goals about photography or other things. On the other hand, I think social media still has a huge role in an artist’s life. It's like a portfolio and we must show our works to others as much as we can if we do our hobby for a living.

What are some of your hobbies outside of photography? Do any of these feed into your creative process?

I have been doing illustration since 2014 as a hobby and yes, that's the reason why I started photography. Doing one thing felt like not enough after one point in my life, like it doesn't satisfy me anymore. Also, I still struggle with expressing my thoughts through drawing, to be honest. I can say that photography freed my brain.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us Çağla. Any final comments?

Big thanks for this interview, it was really fun and motivating for me.

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