Change is the motive behind the concept of Turkish photographer Sertac Tasdelen's ongoing exhibition Resurrection des Mannequins. According to the 26-year-old, art is a medium that brings people together. "Raising voices and different opinions through art rather than politics, in a studio instead of a parliament as privileged individuals, our moral responsibility is to share our blessings, knowledge, creativity, energy, spirit and wealth. [It involves] producing instead of consuming, raising voices instead of listening to what we are told to do. Sixteen of us gathered under the umbrella of hundreds of supporters to raise awareness on social responsibility. This is a get-together, a brainstorming, just a beginning to achieve positive change," he said. Tasdelen is showcasing 15 photographs along with 15 works made in collaboration.
Asked about the message of social responsibility that he wants to spread through his work, he said: "I try to raise awareness on social responsibility in general. For instance, I just read a magazine article about a charity that provides cleft lip surgery for children in developing countries. This is what I mean by changing the world. It's not as difficult as it sounds."
Tasdelen's attraction to photography is not newly born but goes back to his childhood. "I'm obsessed with the concept of time and thrilled with how even milliseconds are significantly important — a small coincidence can change the history of humankind. For me, photography gives the chance of holding a slice of that millisecond," he observed.
The famous photographer Man Ray had an influence on the imagination of the Turkish artist. "Resurrection des Mannequins is influenced by the modernist/surrealist Man Ray who had a series by the same title. Being exposed to the complexities of the modern city life creates new social bonds and new notions of being and self. Abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality leads to delusions and social dysfunction, which trigger identity disorders. A person displays multiple identities and alter egos. When true self-knowledge is attained, the illusory personas are realised, and having recognised a sub-personality, one suddenly feels naked and defenceless, as if his armour had dissolved. That was the thought process that inspired Resurrection des Mannequins," he said.
Bestowed with multiple talents
Tasdelen is an artist of many talents. He is not only a photographer and professional model but also a business and management consultant with a global conglomerate.
Resurrection des Mannequins revolves around an artistic collaboration with a number of Emirati and Dubai-based artists such as Ahmad and Rashid Bin Shabib, Asmaa Al Shabibi, Ayse Arman, Bashar Al Shroogi, Binnaz Gundogan, Gita Meh, Hind Mezaina, Jalal Bin Thaneya, Lamya Gargash, Shaikha Latifa Bint Maktoum, Özant Kamaci, Rami Farook, Sonia Brewin, Shaikh Sultan Sooud Al Qasimi and Thomas Lundgren.
Asked about the purpose of such a collaborative artistic work that includes a number of well-known names in photography, he said: "When Portfolio Gallery conveyed its interest in displaying my artwork, I suggested organising a collaborative artistic effort to raise awareness on social issues. The owner of the gallery immediately accepted the idea. Apart from being a group of well-known people, these are my friends whom I trust on sharing a common goal. I believe we can reach out to more people by working as a team towards one goal. By the synergy we create, we can achieve more as a team than we can individually."
What about the charity work? How much money is expected to be raised? "The most important aspect is raising ‘awareness', not money. Even if nothing gets sold, if we can reach out to people and convince them to do something for the society," Tasdelen said.
Speaking of the awareness that leads to a positive impact, how does this exhibition highlight such issues? "Resurrection des Mannequins has 15 photographs taken by me. Each photograph is given to the collaborating artists who then add their personal interpretations. All the collaborations seek the concept of a better change in society. We don't need politicians to change the world; we are here," he said.
Ahmad and Rashid Bin Shabib, the 26-year-old twins, established brownbag.ae, an online shopping site; Brownbook, a leading lifestyle magazine; and Shelter, a hub for creative minds. Asmaa Al Shabibi is a consultant for Art Dubai. Ayse Arman is a Turkish journalist and author of two books. Bashar Al Shroogi is the owner of Cuadro Fine Art Gallery in Dubai. Binnaz Gundogan, Tasdelen's mother, is a painter and a humanitarian. Gita Meh is an Iranian artist. Hind Mezaina is an Emirati photographer and is also the ambassador of the Lomographic Society of Dubai. Jalal Bin Thaneya is an Emirati activist who is raising awareness about the mentally and physically challenged. Janet Bellotto is an artist, writer and curator in Dubai. Lamya Gargash is an Emirati photographer and filmmaker. Shaikha Latifa Bint Maktoum is the owner of Tashkeel studio. Özant Kamaci is a Turkish photographer. Rami Farook is the one who established Traffic Art Gallery in Dubai. Sonia Brewin established the START charity in Dubai. Shaikh Sultan Sooud Al Qasimi is a frequent commentator on political, social and economic issues whose columns appear regularly in the local newspapers. Thomas Lundgren, founder of THE One, is an inspirational business speaker.
Perspective on life
Asked about the techniques that he used in the exhibition, Tasdelen said: "The lighting was done by my friend Mehmet Timur and make-up was done by my friend and brand ambassador of Max Factor, Samira Olfat. Models Diana Chipar and Yi Li, who are also our friends, volunteered for the shoot." He used Nikon D70s camera.
Asked if there is any specific time when he prefers to take photos, he said: "Yes, I prefer taking pictures after 6pm or in the weekends in particular. As you can guess from my answer, that's because I do have a full-time job. "
So what kind of philosophy does he follow and apply? "For me photography is a medium which I use as a tool to discover myself and life. My philosophy of life in general is: Be positive; don't worry be happy; don't waste even a millisecond; enjoy life and chase your dreams," he said.
Tasdelen's admiration for Man Ray runs deep. "Man Ray pushed the limits of fashion photography and combined it with surrealist perspective. Even after 50 years, he still influences fashion photographers. Ozant Kamaci, on the other hand, is an inspiring fellow photographer friend, also in the pursuit of finding answers to common questions we have about life," he said.
Regarding his upcoming projects, Tasdelen said: "I would like to apply the method of collaborative work for social awareness in various locations with increasing number of artists/collaborators."
Resurrection des Mannequins is on at Portfolio Gallery, Dubai, until May 31.