Your book You Could Even Die For Not Being A Real Couple and the accompanying installation are about love When did your love for photography begin?
I think it started when I was fifteen and was photographed by my first love. He took analogue pictures and had a darkroom. I found it so magical. I didn’t take any pictures myself back then, I was just trying to get to know myself through his lens, his gaze.
It was only when I was travelling through South America as part of my political science studies that I realised I wanted to be a documentary photographer. I spent half a year in Buenos Aires, and bought a camera there one day. I just started shooting and I loved the way that it gave me the chance to interact with the locals. I took a lot of portraits and was amazed by how I could meet people this way.
Then I returned to France to complete my master’s and did an internship at a documentary photography agency. I enjoyed it, but from the outset I knew I would miss taking photographs myself. So I moved to Brussels to study at Le 75, where I followed a documentary photography course.
How did love become the subject of this series?
At first, I wanted to make a classic documentary photography series on love in the part of Turkey inhabited by Kurds. I wanted to dig deeper and chose to focus on the Kurds themselves. I had heard a lot about their struggle for independence and self-determination and about their fight against the patriarchy and for gender equality. I wondered how that was possible in such a conservative and doom and gloom stricken country and how they were going about it. I asked my then sort-of-boyfriend to accompany me. While we were there, I asked people what love and related matters meant to them. Whenever we talked, people asked us whether we were a couple, if we were married, and said that we should get married and things like that. It was like a mirror. For that reason, we decided to act out the parts that they wished we were, as a performance. We were in love, as it were, but actually there was some truth in it. We went to a bridal shop and played with the idea of getting married. We started saying sugary-sweet things to each other. Bits and pieces of this turn up in the book on red paper. The self-portraits in the book are dreamy, because of the wedding dress and the lighting. When we got back from our trip and I looked at all our photographs, it struck me that it would be pertinent to use both the documentary and the staged photographs. So you could categorise the book as a documentary with autofiction.
Why do we only get to see one image from the series?
I think the book is the best way to view this project and I don’t see why I should hang the same images on the wall. It’s about the narrative and that’s why I chose, together with the book’s designer, to create an installation that reflects the atmosphere of the book. It allows the viewer to dive into the book and the project. The video serves to invite the public to take the book in their hands and to make them aware of the physical sensation of it: the gold letters, the red velvet cover, the texture and smell of the paper. It’s a sort of book fetishism - I really wanted the velvet cover (laughs).