Friday, August 10, 2007


"Untitled", color photograph on metallic paper

The city of Istanbul, like my own artwork, is all about layers. There are in fact many Istanbuls, all overlapping, each obscuring and revealing the other, like a series of veils that we try to see through. There are layers of architecture. Layers of repairs. Layers of roads. Layers of signs. Layers of lives. Layers of meanings. Layers of bureaucracy. Layers of graves. Layers of story, and there are many, many, layers of extreme and subtle beauty.

To photograph in Istanbul then is to look through these layers of image to something else that we can not entirely see. We block out most of the city to photograph a piece of it. The shutter opens, then it closes again. The act of photographing both blinds us and opens our eyes.

Drawn to a landscape through the burned window of an underground passageway. Light through water. A wall behind fire. The sky through a grave. We no longer know for sure what we are seeing, these fragments of the city have become something else completely.

Each time we photograph we contribute to this city’s ever-increasing multitude of layers. Like a Beyogolu wall full of posters, we place one image over another, covering what lays beneath it. The image becomes part of the fabric of the wall, the wall already inseparable from the architecture which makes up the city itself. Istanbul grows thicker with each image, there is more and more to take in, and the city becomes harder to see.

The city’s dense image makes it impossible to see much of Istanbul with just our eyes. As if we are blind it forces us to see by other means. I photograph in Istanbul daily, to remind myself of this. (From an unpublished essay written by Jeffrey Baykal Rollins for Kare Magazine, 2006)

Elemental is an ongoing series of color and black and white photographs by Jeffrey Baykal Rollins exploring the intermingling of absence and presence. Fire, water, earth and air are addressed at their points of entry, where luminous objects slip from one element into another, often visible only through the traces they leave behind. Exhibited at the Pool Art Fair, New York City, 2005

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