This human-centred approach can be seen in their latest series Güle Güle. Inspired wholeheartedly by the people they meet and the situations experienced, the series is centred around these relationships with the subjects. “We are drawn into their lives and the situation they are living,” says Valentina. “Like a domino effect, each person gets us to the next one, to another piece of the story that evolves while we live it. As it happens with friendship or love affairs, we are attracted to people with whom we share human affinities, or we are ideologically connected – that’s why there’s much of ourselves in each story.”
The story in Güle Güle rests on hardship. Even the title, which translates to ‘goodbye’ in Turkish, depicts some level of discomfort. By examining themes of gentrification, marginalisation of the poorer classes, discrimination of homosexuality and the “migratory influx of Syrian refugees and the Kurdish community,” the book – with its hidden layers – serves as an honest and harsh reminder of the realities found within Istanbul.
Instead of focusing on the photographs and individual images, much attention has been paid to the sequencing of the publication. The diptychs reflect various situations that are grouped together in uniform in order to tell a story. “Some pictures are taken in very different situations, but when coupled together, they reveal a new layer,” adds Jean-Marc, “with a new significance embedded within. It works like a chemical formula when two elements form a compound.” Within Güle Güle, the duo single out a diptych of a naked guy dressed as a girl, whereby its adjacent page depicts a boy holding a pebble. “The two images are not directly linked, but they do make a physical reaction – they collide and interest, hopefully to enlighten some truth.”
As a whole, Valentina and Jean-Marc’s main goal with this series – like many others – is to spur on thought. “We’d like our audience to be questioned by this work,” says Valentina. “Straightforward and instantly satisfying work can be two-dimensional and uninteresting. Of course our pictures are raw, visually un-conceding, which can result to an initial uncomfortable feeling.” However, there’s something oddly satisfying about the imagery purveyed in Güle Güle, even if there’s a confrontational message hidden beneath.
Güle Güle is available at Andre Frer Editions.