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Guy Martin - Guest Lecture

Guy Martin is a documentary photographer, who is most famous for his documentary work, all though he also works in other areas. Martin graduated from university of Wales in 2006. During his time at university Martin pursued a long term documentary project while studying at university. When Martin came to talk to us he talked about how, when he graduated he felt like he was a photojournalist, covering conflicts, social and global issues. Though in 2010 it became more apparent to him during the Arab revolution that it was what he was. 

It was a Berlin Wall moment for him where everything became clear at the beginning of his career. Photography was the most important thing to him, he cared about it more than people. Martin believed that he knew the person he wanted to be up until the revolution in Libya.  In April of 2011, 10 mins after the photo below was taken, rockets went off around Martin and a couple of his friends who unfortunately died because of the rockets, Martin was also left for dead. 

After this Martin had to learn to walk again and his perspectives changed. Photography now for him was using him, it was not him using photography in his head anymore. I found this interesting, as it struck a cord to me as within the area of photography he was working in at the time was using him to capture the horrible events going on around the word with out a care of what could happen to him but without Martin using photography no one would know the full extent of what the events were having on people living there. 

At the end of 2012 Martin moved to Turkey, here he started to create his 6 - 7 year project called the “Parallel State”. The Parallel state came after the deep state which was first coined in the early 1950s and was a trained group of propagandists. They were hidden in plan sight, all around and mixed in with everyone. 

This is where the title of the project came from. During his talk Martin showed us a film of the night the president of Turkey was over frown in June 2016. The video was of people in the flat relaxing when suddenly all this noise of gun fire happened, the video was taken in the building he was living in at the time. 

Martin said that he was always drawn to the extreme and had an extreme view of a huge part of the world, a whole other side to things. Not knowing exactly where the series would take him at the beginning, the work began to develop and evolve. The use of Turkish soap operas ended up being a huge aspect of the series. The Turkish soaps are the most watched TV soaps around the world. To Martin they showed Islam in a unique and interesting way. With the soap operas used the countries own news and current events. it turns its own news in on itself and fictionalises it. 

The ides of using this started off small, Martin never intended to combine the 2 bodies of work. The whole series was a combination of documentary photos of events going on and of sense that the soap operas where recording at the same time. This is where the title of the “Parallel State” also worked well with the body of work, to works different but the same working parallel together to create the series. Throughout Martin felt that he had more creative freedom while combining the two. Martin had to figure out what he wanted to say. The soaps were a way of bringing cinema sets into their homes. The female characters have the strongest roles in the shows, showing female empowerment.

When taking the photos of the soap operas Martin would take the photos before the director shouted action and after cut because then he was still documenting reality. The idea was to let the viewer decide if the frame was real or a soap, leave it up to their imagination, leave it unanswered. 

The photo below was the one photo the Martin showed us and talked to use about really caught my attention. Martin talked about the area this photo was taken in. Martin said as he walked through the area where the photo was taken, there where stencilled paintings of a young boy called Berkin Elvan. In this area in June 2013 the 15 year old boy was hit on the head with a tear gas canister on his way to the shops by a police officer. He later died in 2014 after being in a coma for 269 days. This cause huge protests and upheaval. The locals in the area now use song birds to symbolise Berkin Elvan. They call him “The beautiful song bird who lost his wings” This really stuck me personally, due to the horrible yet beautiful image below. The horrible bird cage being like a prison and being trapped in the uncertainty of what’s going on around them. The song birds are taken by more often than not masculine me to teashops in the area to have singing competitions. The bird symbolising to me the young boy so young and innocent caught up in what the strong powerful people are doing to the country. 

To me this was the one image through out the whole talk that will really stick with me for a long time as it has so much meaning and symbolism. In a way it represents that Turkey is the bird and the hand being the people with the power causing the destruction. tightening there grip on the country. It was a intense and beautiful talk with so much to learn and take in over all I furrily enjoyed it. 

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