11 July 2017

Monuments of Unofficial Power

11 July 2017 - Written by Laurence Cornet

In a recent photobook, Put, Yusuf Sevinçli investigates people's urge to express themselves through destruction of symbols.

© Yusuf Sevinçli, from the book, PUT

Sequencing is inherent to photography. Juxtaposition and accumulation charge images with meaning, multiplying the variety of interpretations of a single frame. In his latest book - a publication made from a series shot in 2012 as part of a group exhibition at Arter, in Istanbul - Yusuf Sevinçli deploys the power of such an apparatus.

The design itself is an exercise. Its binding as an accordion enables horizontal images, that at first gaze appear vertical, to unfold side by side with one, two, or more other photographs. It also gives the small object a sculptural aspect, as it can then stand by itself, which echoes the subject of the short series. The selection of images focuses on the transformation of monuments once they are installed and left alone on a busy square. His informal inventory captures pieces of statues and walls, covered with graffiti, teared apart or dismantled.

© Yusuf Sevinçli, from the book, PUT

As Lara Fresco, who wrote an introduction to the work in 2013 puts it, “what lies within these uncanny images is a glimpse into the struggle embodied by the visibility and invisibility of these objects. […] Their oblique angles and quality of darkness reveal vantage points that operate outside of hierarchical structures of official discourses.” The title of the book, inspired by a word painted on the forehead of poet Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı’s statue, revealingly means “Idol”. In a country where an artist had tried to compile in thousands of images all the appearances of the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Ataturk, in Turkey within a database playfully called “Atabase”, Sevincli’s series offers an interesting perspective on the omnipresence of social and political symbols.

And this, especially since he varies the points of view. He first observes the damaged monuments in a dark black and white that charges them with an unsettling aura as the scale is never obvious, before going on to capture the executioners, such as people gathered around a fire. Another photograph disturbingly seems to represent a man reading how to break a cracked window with an axe.

© Yusuf Sevinçli, from the book, PUT

Only one horse seems to protest this shared fate. His mouth open in distress and his head dripping with what could well be blood, he resembles a typical figure of classical war frescos. A timeless character, it echoes what Nilufer Sasmaze wrote in the postscript of the book: “Whichever authority or ideology they represent, these sculptures, each with its own separate story, share a similar destiny, and their paths intersect in the same story.”


PUT by Yusuf Sevinçli

Fail Books, April 2017 // 16 x 12 cm // Photographs: Yusuf Sevinçli // Design: AtaKam // Text: Nilüfer Şaşmazer

Edition of 250, signed and numbered // €36.00


See a video of the book on Vimeo.


Yusuf Sevinçli is a Turkish photographer represented by Gallery Le Filles du Calvaire, Paris and Galerist, Istanbul.

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

Written by

Laurence Cornet

Reading time

3 minutes

Support PhMuseum Journalism

Since 2012 PhMuseum's articles have always been free and without ads. Every year we work to keep you informed and invite you to discover the work of hundreds of photographers. If you enjoy reading us, this can be a nice way to give back and support our independent organisation, granting us more means to increase the quality and number of contents. Thank you!