A few weeks ago, I learnt that Semra Sevin, a photographer I got to know through Facebook, was about to have her first solo show in Berlin. I contacted her to get more info, and then she invited me to the show preview, where she would treat us with Turkish delicacies specially made by her mother, and a typical beverage, raki. An offer nobody could refuse right?
Then one day, Semra contacted me to ask me if I knew someone who could help her set up the show at the Carpentier Gallery, a beautiful venue in the Western Kiez of Charlottenburg, one of my favorite parts of town, and I thought this was actually a grand opportunity to not only report about the event, but completely immerse in it and explore the different aspects of setting up an arts exhibition in Berlin. The night before having to go meet Semra to set up the exhibition, Donald Trump won the elections in the U.S. so I woke up to a completely different world panorama than the one I have gone to sleep to. My Facebook feed was raging, I didnt even try turning on the news, and my breakfast peanut butter toast tasted like bigotry, but I had something to look forward: in just 30 minutes from that tough awakening, I would be shut out from the world for around six hours helping Semra hang beautiful photographies on the gallery’s walls. Can’t think of a better and more soothing plan for a day such as that one.
The experience turned out to be really fun. Semra and I decided where to hang every portrait, it was an easy task as she was really open to my comments and valued my opinion. In a world full of arrogant artists, this was such a breath of fresh air! But what’s more important is that we got the chance to chat and discover how many things we had in common, while I could ask all the questions I could think of about the works we were preparing.
What is the show about?
Semra Sevin: This is my first solo exhibition in Berlin as an art photographer, I also do commercial photography, and it brings together two of my reflections series, which I have been working on for around five years, although it experienced a hiatus through the process. This show brings together the past of the series and the present. It includes people from Berlin’s art scene, collectors, personalities, and more. This selection focuses more on the City’s personalities, for obvious reason, and because it was impossible for me to feature accordingly all 70 portraits. That is why also we created a little corner with additional photographs of the series, on smaller formats.
The second part of the reflection series is about body image based on three cities: Los Angeles, Berlin and New York. The cityscapes reflect into the bodies of the models. I like the fact that I made big prints out of them because you are able to see so many details on this format. They are much more impressive this way. I would have liked to show more of the body images, it was hard to decide on a few!
Why did you choose the Carpentier Gallery?
Semra Sevin: I love the space, the building is absolutely beautiful, and Manfred (Carpentier) is a dear friend. Charlottenburg has always been one of my favorite corners of Berlin, one of the most authentic parts. Mitte and Friedrischshain, where I live, have become more well-known internationally after the falling of the wall as cheap real-estate area, fact that has completely changed today as all areas have similar prices. Charlottenburg has always reminded me of Paris, the buildings, as the one this gallery is nested on, have more ornaments. This building is one of the typical Charlottenburg ones that I love, and the character of the kiez is reflected on this space, it has something precious, classy, and clean.
What about the reactions of the people photographed when they saw their portraits? could you tell us about some of them?
Semra Sevin: They were all positively surprised as during the photoshoot itself it is unimaginable to picture what the outcome will be. Usually, the model knows where the light is coming from, the photographer’s style and what they are wearing, so they have an idea of how the product would look. Whereas with these photos there are many possibilities due to the mirroring aspect, but when the model sees the outcome, then they are really pleased because they discover that the shot is more like a puzzle than a photography, there are a lot of things to discover. The photos are very unique because I don’t think you can reproduce the same effect again.
Which was the best reaction from all the models’?
Semra Sevin: It was definitely the one of the director of photography of the TV Show “Dr. House”, Gale Tattersall, in Los Angeles. I photographed him with his son in his studio in L.A., they had all the equipment and the lights on-site, I think they did it because they knew me, but had no idea of what the outcome would be. I think everyone was puzzled with the set-up, the lights and the assistants holding reflection foils. Nothing like an advertising shoot, or a tv set which looks very impressive. I use many different lights, flash and foils, colors, and HMI as well as reflections, I also use a bull’s eye mirror, so you can’t really figure out easily what was going on. When I showed them in the camera, everyone was so surprised, and even his assistant was eager to model!
About the show:
From November 11th to December 16th, gallery Carpentier in Berlin presents two bodies of work of photographer Semra Sevin in the exhibition “Metropolitan Angel (Cherub).” The subject is three legendary metropolises which have been a magnet to artists and creatives from all over the world—Berlin, Los Angeles and New York— and the two photographic series here reflect upon the search for identity. “Bodyreflections” consists of a selection of surprisingly experimental, multi-layered images. The second series captures the artists which Sevin met throughout the course of her life as a photographer.
Sevin’s second photo series “Portraitreflections” introduces a cross-section of creative personalities inhabiting the art world in Berlin and Los Angeles. We observe touching moments which came about from the personal relationship of the photographer with her models. Sevin’s foil technique interfaces her protagonists with their working environment.
Some of the personalities displayed in the exhibition are: Larry Bell, Alicja Kwade, Anselm Reyle, Tim Eitel, Gregor Hildebrandt, Despina Stokou, Nick Ut, Julie Bennet Roberts and Gale Tattersall with his son.
Semra’s website: http://www.semrasevin.com/
*all photos but the first one are Semra Sevin’s courtesy
* main image is Alicia Kwade’s portrait, she is right now, one of the most groundbreaking artists if not the most on the Berlin art scene