Lütfi Özkök portraits at Istanbul Modern
The photographs in the exhibition, curated by Demet Yıldız, are from Özkök’s archive in Stockholm, Sweden, where he spent most of his life. The exhibition features the artist’s photographs of 80 figures in art and literature starting from the 1950s, inviting viewers to witness a period while contemplating the various meanings of portrait photography.
One of the most important genres of photography, portraiture reflects not only the inner world of its subject but also the continual interaction between the cultural, aesthetic, sociological, psychological and ideological layers of the external world. While Özkök’s portraits record and make contemporaneous appearances of his subjects visible, they also remind us of their social identities.
A poet as well as a photographer, Özkök, who lived between 1923 and 2017, closely followed the worlds of art and literature and often communicated with his subjects before taking their portraits.
Lifelong relationships with figures in the exhibition, such as Nazım Hikmet, Samuel Beckett and René Char, enabled him to take their photos at different times and record the changes in their faces as they journeyed through life.
He also investigated how his subjects’ relationship with their work revealed an aspect of their persona. More generally, Özkök’s portraits reflected his feeling of fellowship with his subjects, who were living outside their countries of birth like himself.
The photographs selected for the exhibition start in the 1950s, when Özkök began to take photographs to accompany his articles in literary magazines and continue through the 1990s. They include 89 portraits of leading artistic and literary figures from the post-World War II era, among them 24 Nobel laureates, and present an overview of a highly transformative time.
The exhibition also examines Özkök’s relationships with his subjects through texts, objects and documents that accompany the photographs and describes a period through the artist’s personal story.
The exhibition, titled “Lütfü Özkök: Portraits,” which opened on Dec. 21, will continue through May 3, 2020.