Take a few seconds to think about the last few photographs you saw: a cat meme, an acquaintance on vacation, a gym selfie, someone's kid, someone's dog, an advertisement for a movie, or a burger, or a car – photos that help create and reinforce your social and cultural worldview. Turkish artist Uğur Gallen is using those ubiquitous photos to make an emotionally jarring point: the world you live in isn't the only world. The images shared are sensitive in nature, so viewer beware.
Gallen takes innocuous photos that any of us might run across in an average day and juxtaposes them with photos that have similar compositions or elements, but tell an entirely different story. The two worlds in Gallen's creations live side by side, rarely touching, except in these pieces of art that show the striking contrast between parallels. The world that many of us take for granted is only a fairy tale to others, while the harsh reality some live with is unreal, the fodder for entertainment.
Some of the images are almost ironic in nature, forcing the viewer to take a moment to scan the scene, while others are so immediate and emotionally jarring they are hard to look at.
Many of Gallen's collages are almost a commentary on the nature of photography itself.
Seeing these iconic photos blend almost seamlessly with images that are so contradictory creates a narrative that speaks volumes about the painful dichotomy of our reality, not just as humans, but as photographers aiming to capture the human experience. What will our photographs say about our reality years from now? More people are creating more photographs today than at any point in human history, but not many people are taking the time say something with them.
Uğur Gallen is. I hope the rest of us listen. More than that, I hope the rest of us take the time to raise our own artistic voices in the service of those who cannot.