Cem Bayoglu’s studio in Izmir, Turkey is home to some of the most interesting fine art photography produced today. Bayoglu works with color, fantasy, and the technical limits of his camera to create a through-the-looking-glass experience.
His fascination with images began at a young age when his father showed him slides in the family projector. Those haunting, glowing images made an impression on young Bayoglu that he would carry with him his entire life. While studying English in Australia in 2001, Bayoglu purchased his first camera and began an artistic career that has now blossomed to include album covers, music videos, posters, and commercials. But it is his fine art photography that secures his name as a rising star in the field.
His artwork has been exhibited across Europe, including his poignant meditation on domestic violence One Billion Suffers in 2013. His continuing exploration of portraiture led him to the connected series of Sinful Colors and Berceste.
Sinful Colors depicts women in a fantasy world of saturated color, disturbed by restricting veils. The overall effect is like a nightmare form of A Midsummer Night’s Dream riding on an erotic undercurrent.
Each portrait plays with texture and vivid, unexpected color, but the images always turn on movement — bringing about a hallucinatory state akin to suffocation. The beaded water, glass barriers, and body paint all pant and shimmer along with the subjects.
The series utilizes a vast but highly controlled palette, surprisingly without the aid of digital manipulation. Instead, Bayoglu’s masterful camera work and color control at the shoot brings together a magical, though often upsetting, vision.
Bayoglu created these fantasy visions in studio, providing a compelling metanarrative for the viewer to sift through. A challenge to the assumptions of our time that no photograph can be trusted. Rather, the power of the camera and mise en scène transport us to this other world.
This series of photographs uses extensive digital manipulation, a major departure from Sinful Colors. While the work still glistens with texture and detail, the effect is a more subdued, glamorous take on his fantasy style.
These artworks do not try to hide their process, but they upend it with Victorian fashion cues and a sepia tone sprinkled with a few turquoise flourishes. And so Bayoglu anchors his move into raster graphics editing with subject matter borrowed from the earliest photographed portraits.
Bayoglu’s take on “the photoshop” carries with it the markings of related phenomena: a series of couture portraits held steady in the vice grip of the digital workspace. When we compare these to the charged images of Sinful Colors, we can fully appreciate the reservation in Berceste. Something in the retouching yearns for controlled content, while the all natural Sinful Colors carry the wild (dangerously so).
These two fine art photography series give us a look at Bayoglu’s trajectory. He continues to explore the relationship between the human subject and photographic techniques. The balance of energy between these always shifting and influencing each other.
Art Review by J.Clark