Irem is a busy photographer traveling between New York and Toronto. Starting from humble beginnings in Instanbul, she is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Irem has been kind enough to sit down with us to share how she got started, some of the obstacles she overcame to gain respect in her industry as a photographer, and share advice for someone who is starting out in the industry.
Here, she speaks on how she became a photographer:
Tell me about what you are doing now?
As a visual artist I am juggling various things. I am working on a few personal short and long term projects as well as working on daily business (aka chasing clients, promoting my work etc). I am working on the concept of a short VR film.
What made you begin?
If you are asking what made me begin photography, I guess the accumulation of experiences in various artistic fields. I was born and raised in Istanbul, it’s a crazy, beautiful city with layers upon layers of civilization and history. It’s a place where everything has a voice, everything talks, day and night. The waves of the sea, the ferries going east and west, the seagulls, the breeze, the cars honking, people rushing from one street to another simultaneously talking to each other, telling each other stories day and night.
Maybe that’s why when I was a child I wanted to become a writer. Growing up I got interested in so many other things from archeology to industrial design yet I ended up studying interpretation, learned a few more languages and went to UK to do a masters in Cultural Studies and Arts Management. London is the city where I grew up both as an artist and individual. While doing some internships in arts management I got into multimedia, started working in animation and photography.
How did you get started here?
I fell in love with a Canadian in London, after a while we moved to Montreal. That’s where I decided to focus on photography. I studied at Dawson College and shortly after that moved to Toronto.
What keeps you going?
How do you stay motivated?
I keep challenging myself, questioning what I am shooting, how and why I am shooting, constantly changing things. I come up with new ideas, concepts to shoot.
3 things that someone who wants to be a successful photographer and studio owner should keep at top of mind:
1. Believe in yourself.
2. Don’t listen to everything everyone says, take it with a grain of salt.
3. Be persistent.
An image from Irem’s work
What were you doing before?
So many different things, shooting short films, theorizing about identity politics, singing, painting… I am a curious human being, always thirsty to learn more. I can’t focus on one thing only, can’t live in one place all my life. I feel like I have been packing a few lifetimes into my life so far, hopping from one continent to another, adding one passion to another. And I would like to do more.
What are some struggles that made it difficult to get from that to this?
At the beginning I didn’t have any support from people around me. My family, friends, everybody doubted me, questioned my decision, told me I couldn’t do it, taking risks is not worth it. Come on! What is life if you don’t take risks?
Tell us a point in your life when you didn’t ever think you would make it?
There are so many points in my life when I felt like that, you just have to pick yourself up and continue to fight. I was never handed anything in my life, had to fight for everything. It’s a good thing, it keeps you fresh and you appreciate every second of it.
Who told you no?
There are more people who told me ‘No’ than ‘Yes’. I don’t keep track. After a while you stop caring about the ‘No’s you keep going until you hear ‘Yes’.
What was your turn-around point? did you always have a dream to become what you are now?
Yes I always wanted to be an artist, I wouldn’t know what else to do with myself.
What inspired you to start on this journey?
Life, things that I heard, read, saw, felt, my travels and studies. Art is a way to cope with life, with the absurdity of existence and maybe even find some meaning.
What was your yes moment?
If you weren’t born into a privileged environment where others created the path for you, sponsoring your development as an artist and giving you the connections you need, you have to find the courage and drive within yourself to carve your own path. The struggle is a daily cycle, it is always happening, will always happen. You have to want it so bad in order to continue the journey. Giving up is easy.