Making the spectator dream: The photography of Cihan Bektas


“She said she saw her images as memories she had hidden from her dreams.” 

At fifteen Cihan Bektas was given a polaroid camera by his father. Not a creative man himself, he could not have known the impression this would leave on his son. 

“I think that by giving me a camera he was offering me responsibility – encouraging me to do something else apart from just running around or kicking a ball,” recalls Bektas. 

Teenage Bektas took to the streets of Istanbul with a new purpose, immediately drawn to photographing people. A preoccupation which has continued to age 39 and his polaroid series Her, which recently won the major prize in the 2019 SUNSTUDIOS Emerging Photographer Award (SEPA). 

Image by Cihan Bektas

Six polaroids make up the first instalment of his series and ethereal tribute to his wife made over a period of three years. 

“In this project I was impressed by dreams and surrealism – experimenting with the subconscious,” he said.

“I wanted to create pictures that suggest stories and invite the audience to experiment with the boundaries between reality and fiction.” 

Image by Cihan Bektas

Photography is one part of a wider creative practice for Bektas, which also incorporates writing and painting. The Melbourne-based photographer has also published a novel and a poetry volume combining his images and words. 

“I am interested in how something rather ordinary can become extraordinary, inspired by all things timeless and undefined. I try to suggest things which will make the spectator dream.” 

Her is an ongoing work he intends to continue working an toward an exhibition utilising both colour and black and white for ensuing chapters, encouraged by his SEPA win. 

“I never intended on making a living as a photographer but now I can’t live without it.”

SEPA 2019 exhibition continues at SUNSTUDIOs Atrium Gallery in Sydney until October 6 before travelling to the Skylight Gallery in Melbourne November 7-19. 

Image by Cihan Bektas