09 February 2016

Eight Years of Life and Politics in Turkey

09 February 2016 - Written by Laurence Cornet

In his photobook, Nothing Surprising, Ali Taptik offers an intimate look at the rioter political landscape in his homeland.

© Ali Taptik, from the series, Nothing Surprising

Eight years ago, Ali Taptik started a visual diary in his native Turkey. A student in architecture and a photographer who already had exhibitions and book assignments worldwide, Taptik was documenting his friends and co-citizens; their struggle, resilience and hopes in a country shaped by a tormented political background.

At the time, he gave a premonitory title to his series, Nothing Surprising. Years passed and turmoil only increased with the election of an authoritarian Prime Minister, the multiplication of journalist incarcerations, the systematic repression of protests, and the worsening of eastern conflicts. And so the personal photo essay turned into one imbued with politics. The title stayed. Still, “it feels strange when you think about what led to all this in the country. A neighbouring war igniting one on this land. All the atrocities that one has to see and tries to make sense of. The narcissist I am feels kind of ashamed and responsible.”

© Ali Taptik, from the series, Nothing Surprising

The editing of the book retrospectively pieces together the dark spiral that dragged the country down to crisis. Photographs became glimpses of emotions as much as pamphlets, especially when put together side by side and featured along with reproductions of old newspapers hidden in folded pages. “Everything that happened probably changes the way in which the photos are linked to each other.”

In the first pages of the book, a photograph of Taptik’s father, shirtless and his naked torso covered with electro-cardiogram patches, faces that of Istanbul, endless and blurry, seen from a distant rooftop on the top of which lay two wooden beams. The spread announces a fragile future.

© Ali Taptik, from the series, Nothing Surprising

Later on appears the photograph of a watermelon smashed on the pavement. Old Turkish people like to say that watermelon season starts when its red pieces float on the surface of the Bosphorus. What are they a sign of then, when spread on the floor? The faded portrait on the next page, of a sunken-eyed boy firmly holding a rope in the middle of a messy public square, offers an answer.

“If you simply cannot grasp how a summer rain can suddenly flood a city and kill nine truck drivers, leaving people scrambling about to loot muddy waters to salvage the goods, or how rotten watermelons have to be smashed in the marketplace, as otherwise people will try to grab and eat them, it would be hard for you to follow the narrative here”, Taptik warns in the introduction. All in all, the book opens and closes with two fully red photographs; if not a statement, this is a clue.


Nothing Surprising, Marraine Ginette Editions. Available at the Tipi Bookshop; €30.


Ali Taptik is an artist based in Istanbul dealing with the representation of urban landscape and architecture.

Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn focusing on cultural and environmental issues.

Written by

Laurence Cornet

Reading time

3 minutes

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