Didem Toprak

Didem Toprak (b.1988) is a visual designer, researcher and self-taught photographer from Istanbul, Turkey. She received her BA in Advertising and MFA in Visual Communication Design. She is interested and influenced by research-based projects on contemporary society as well interactions between environment, human and animals. She is currently working as a freelance visual designer while working on second photography project.

Future Can Wait

While nostalgia distorts our perceptions of the past, our present day actions have enduring effects on the future. The future will not wait for us, but time does act generously for some spaces, though as we all know generosity is not endless. In this era the future is more fluid than ever before, and this fluidity obscures clear predictions for what will happen. The control of authorities who rotate policies in different regions with no regard for the lasting consequences these will have on places is having a nefarious effect. And based on my observations, there will not be a deus ex machine mechanism to stop this process.

In my country, Turkey, for many years policy has dictated the rejection of small farming communities and the promotion of a more sustained focus on other industries. Since the foundation of the Republic here, many of the policies of the state have had traumatic results. Plans to encourage the development of a functioning rural society have failed over the years, while cities and towns have become places of economical, social, and cultural dissonance. After numerous political and social watersheds over the course of the past century, the 1990s finally culminated in the collapse of farming communities in rural Anatolia.
This process gained momentum as the country decided to shift from a closed economy to a more open model. Increasingly people began moving to larger urban centers such as Istanbul, in the hope of starting anew. Those who migrated tried to find ways to belong to middle class or gain a higher social standing, informed by the media and popular culture. Our family and their town underwent this same transformative process which was taking place across Turkey.

The Future Can Wait is a long-term photography project about returning to my father’s town. I tell the personal story of my family as well other families who took the same path, and is based in the province of Sivas in central Anatolia. The area claims to have over 1,200 different villages, and a total population of around 640,000 people…Our family’s town, Gürün, is located on an important historical trade route between the east and west of Anatolia. With a population of around 11,200 each of its 62 villages form part of a larger area and present a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. I spent time in our town and in 15 other villages, and saw first hand how people’s lives had changed since people began vacating the area.

After years of observation I have found the cure to this malaise in monitoring details within the landscape, somewhere between romantic representations and images of the built environment. I kept silent as I wandered around and witnessed these environments, and sought out people who are attempting to resist the decay. I found protagonists of the town and endeavored to discover a transparent way of demonstrating and viewing contrasts between modern and rural life and a fluid future through their portraits. I took photos of carpenters, stovemakers, beekeepers, and poets striving to protect their own inner worlds and identities while trying to make what they can of their limited opportunities. My intention was to create portraits of the town’s inhabitants along with their changing environments.

To view more of Didem Toprak’s work please visit her website.