Istanbul Modern, Turkey's first museum of modern and contemporary art, is hosting an exhibition on the memory of businessperson and photographer Şakir Eczacıbaşı. Launched on the 10th anniversary of Eczacıbaşı’s death on Nov. 25, 2020, “Selected Moments” will remain open until March 31, 2021.
The exhibition, curated by Bülent Erkmen, brings together impressionist photographs from the artist's early years during the 1960s and photographs from the 1980s, where he interprets the technical possibilities of photography in his own distinct manner. It portrays streets that Eczacıbaşı describes as "the places where we are in our natural states" and the multilayered geography of Anatolia, which is host to several civilizations over the centuries.
The exhibition can be evaluated as a display focusing on works in which the artist conveys the relationship of his subjects with their surroundings, other people, vehicles and roads. While featuring human-centered works and portraits of important actors in the field of culture and arts, the exhibition also reveals the artist's desire to search for a form of universal communication. Comprising of 300 photographs, the shows’ works are collected from the Istanbul Modern Photography Collection and a selection of photographs that the artist donated to the Dr. Nejat F. Eczacıbaşı Foundation.
"Eczacıbaşı is widely considered to be one of Turkey's leading contemporary photographers," Chair of the Board of Istanbul Modern Oya Eczacıbaşı said. She added: “On the 10th anniversary of his death, we, as Istanbul Modern, wanted to commemorate the master, who made numerous contributions to the world of art and culture, with moments of life selected by him and reflected through his lens. Ezcacıbaşı was a versatile artist who questioned the formalism of photography in order to project the movement, uncertainty and changes of daily life with his photographs.”
Passion behind camera
Exhibition curator Erkmen also explained that the exhibition conveys the diversity and richness of color of moments in Eczacıbaşı's view of life while showcasing images that add extraordinary emotions to ordinary moments.
“Eczacıbaşı approached the things he wanted to do, his pursuits and interests, life and photography with appetite and enthusiasm," Erkmen said. "He photographed every moment and everything he looked at. Fifty, 100 or 150 photographs aren't enough to illustrate his world of photography. This exhibition presents more than 300 photographs and with this comprehensive selection, aims to convey the diversity and colorfulness of moments in Eczacıbaşı's view of life, the images that add extraordinary emotion to ordinary moments and the versatile passion behind his unsteady, fidgeting camera.”
As part of the exhibition, Eczacıbaşı’s book “Selected Moments” and a selection of products designed especially for the show are available at the Istanbul Modern Shop.
On the life of a master
Born in 1929 in western Izmir province, Eczacıbaşı (which literally translates to "chief pharmacist" in English) is a second-generation member of the namesake family that transformed a pharmacy business in Izmir into a sizable conglomerate operating in health care products, medicine and construction. He studied first at Robert College in Istanbul then at the University of London's School of Pharmacy. In 1953, following his return to Turkey, he became one of the publishers of the famous Sanat Yaprağı, the culture and art supplement of Vatan newspaper.
He took up photography in the 1960s, gained recognition in Turkey and abroad with his work, and came to be considered one of Turkey's leading contemporary photographers. He organized 15 photography exhibitions in Turkey and 25 in various western countries. The artist also published a variety of books featuring selections from his photographs. Among them are “Moments,” “Türkiye’nin Renkleri” (“Colors of Turkey”) and “Kapılar ve Pencereler” (Doors and Windows”) are the most prominent ones.
Eczacıbaşı once said: “I take photographs because I want to remember my past with images. And not just to remember, I also want to share them with the viewers.” Defining his art as “an effort to reproduce the world with a specific personal interpretation, he played a prominent role in Turkey's culture and arts field. In addition to pursuing photography, he helped to the shaping of the art world through his founding of the Turkish Cinema Association and leadership of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) as chairperson of the board of directors.
Starting from 1968 until his death in 2010 in Istanbul, Şakir Eczacıbaşı produced 43 thematic Eczacıbaşı Color Photography Albums focused on people and landscapes from Turkey. Fishermen, houses, streets, bazaars, markets and coffeehouses were the common images in his photos. The albums also introduced distinguished writers and photographers, many of whom were young and unknown. Shortly before he died, Eczacıbaşı collected his memoirs in a book, titled “Çağrışımlar, Tanıklıklar, Dostluklar” (“Associations, Testimonies, Friendships”), which was posthumously published in September 2010.