Turkish Artist Juxtaposes Photographs to Create Heartbreaking Social Commentary

Turkish Artist Juxtaposes Photographs to Create Heartbreaking Social Commentary

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.

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Wow. These are great.

William Howell's picture

I must say, to me, these are actually powerful compositions. I was prepared to be disdainful, you know SJW’s and the “awareness” thing, but these are thoughtful and provoke a feeling, not sadness, but like, this is the way of things and life.

agree. These go beyond the usual political correctness to really cal our attention to the contradictions in modern life

user-156929's picture

Awareness without practical action is worse than pointless. It makes people feel good about themselves for raising their "artistic voices" without actually providing any real 'service to those who can't.' Where do these people live? How can you help them, if at all? Which organizations are providing them relief? Education? Food? Safety? :-(

So if you don't feel there is anything you can personally do about a problem, you'd just rather not be aware of its existence? Ignorance is bliss.

"Where do these people live? How can you help them, if at all? Which organizations are providing them relief? Education? Food? Safety?"

Why not check the hashtags under each photo? Do a little research? No need to question the motives of others who are trying to help, even in some small way.

user-156929's picture

No, not at all. And I agree with doing my own research. My gripe isn't with their motives, which are probably good, it's with the fact they aren't trying to help in a small way: they aren't helping at all.
I've seen so many "awareness" campaigns but when you ask, as I've literally done to their faces, what they've done to come up with solutions or even present the problem(s) to people who would like to help, the answer is always the same. NOTHING! Some of these photos don't even explicitly identify any problem, they only identify the disparity between people's lives. Equating, by grouping them together, problems that can be addressed with those that can't, dilutes the former.
The problem with a placebo isn't that it doesn't help. The problem is, thinking you've actually done something, the issue never gets real treatment. A perfect example is Climate Change. Everyone goes on and on about it but the "solutions" don't actually address the problem, much less fix it.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to take one example depicted here, has persisted since at least 1948 and has resisted the best efforts of world leaders and international agencies to resolve it. How do you expect a photographer to come up with the solution?

user-156929's picture

I don't. I don't expect anyone to solve that. So, what does juxtaposing it against kids in school do? Awareness? Everyone knows there's a problem but how many people know the root causes or the efforts to fix it or to prevent a fix? Instead of, or in addition to, these composites, maybe do some investigative photojournalism to identify the answers. That still won't fix that particular problem but at least people will have a better idea of what the actual problem is.

I don't think any of these images were taken by this guy. He's a collage artist, reflecting what he sees as the disparity between people's lives, as you rightly put it. As an artist he has no obligation to provide solutions, only to provoke reflection and discussion (and yes, awareness too), which he has achieved here. I guess I don't understand what your problem is with this. Your original comment that "Awareness without practical action is worse than pointless" just seems overblown. Practical action starts with awareness.

user-156929's picture

I'm sorry. I thought it was clear, I have no problem with the images, just the attitude reflected in the article, that they somehow achieve something. Practical action is only possible when you are aware of the possible actions as well as what the actual problem is. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian situation, you would need to know which entities hold how much of the blame and then you could refuse to support Israeli companies or ask your congressman to vote against aid for the Palestinians, depending on who you hold most to blame. In the case of hunger, you would need to know, not just that it exists but, what organizations are most effective at addressing the problem. Blindly throwing money at it isn't very practical.
As far as I can tell, the artist (a term I think is thrown around entirely too loosely) doesn't see it as achieving anything, which is fine if a bit exploitive.

Nicole York's picture

Awareness is the prerequisite to action. You can't do anything about something you don't know exists. And emotion is the driving force behind most action. If you know, and you feel something, there's a better chance you might do something.
If you care, then you have a world of information at your fingertips. It's not the artists responsibility to do the research and make decisions about what or who the viewer decides to support. It's up to the viewer to do their own due diligence and make up their own minds about what, if anything, they'd like to do to help.

user-156929's picture

Okay. :-/

I wish that GOD see this photos; the photographer edit that together and god create these scenes before others.

Amazing work bet a big charity rips him off ! Also not sure if he has shot all the images?

user-156929's picture

Are you lamenting the possibility that someone (big charity) will use the photos to collect money to actually help someone??

Ben Bezuidenhout's picture

I don't want to open a political discussion but. The images seem to judge western culture as if western culture is at direct fault for their misfortune.

user-156929's picture

I didn't get that at all but I'm glad you commented. It's nice to see someone more cynical than myself. No mean feat, that! ;-)

Nicole York's picture

It would be good to study a bit and see how much Western culture has negatively affected other cultures, but I think it shows more of those cultures opinions than actual fact.

William Howell's picture

Very good article and it has sparked some conversations, but we wouldn’t be seeing these images without Western culture. Just ask Nicéphore Niépce.

Laughing Cow's picture

Wow! So much powerful images!!

prabu karan's picture

wow very powerful photos...