Photography is a witness to history

It is impossible to imagine a newspaper without photos. Most of the time, a photo tells you that dozens of lines and sentences cannot tell. When we examine our memory, we realize that photos are the most remnant of an event. Many news photographs in my memory bear the signature of Bülent Kılıç. Agence France-Press (AFP) photojournalist Kılıç’s Taksim Square covered with gas during the Gezi Resistance, the worker who had just escaped from the mine in the Soma Massacre and his father who kissed him, the gaze of the young woman who was exposed to tear gas after the funeral of Berkin Elvan, Syria Bülent Kılıç took photographs of the war in Turkey, refugees and politicians trying to cross borders.

This photograph of the young woman who was subjected to harsh police intervention after Berkin Elvan’s funeral brought Bülent Kılıç the first place at the 2014 World Press Photograph Awards. This photograph, which has been engraved in my memory since that day, came before me in giant dimensions on a church in Amsterdam, Holland in 2015. Seeing this photo at the church named De Nieuwe Kerk, buying a ticket and entering the exhibition was one. While the award-winning photographs of that year were exhibited in the exhibition, the Dutch showed great interest in this photograph of Kılıç.

Kılıç came to the fore with a theft more than the photo he took recently. Turkey Journalists’ Society (TGC) Journalism Achievement Awards for “Best Photo” category was his photo awards but someone else had admitted to the competition itself, rather than Demirören News Agency (DHA) and Batman working for Contemporary newspaper Rashad Yiğiz, sword drawn in Hasankeyf sent the photo and won the first place. When the situation emerged, the award was given to Kılıç, and Yiğiz was asked to be issued from TGC. The interesting thing was that the jury did not pay attention to who took such a special photo. We talked about the photos that Bülent Kılıç took and had him stolen.

– First of all, let’s talk about the fact that his photo was stolen. How did you find out about the incident?

They reported from the Journo (news portal). I didn’t take it seriously at first because it was an old story. However, it turned out to be new, and TGC is an institution that I consider to be an institution that protects journalists when necessary. They contacted me and said, “We want to give you the prize, do you accept it?” I agreed. Probably 20 years ago it would have been a much bigger crisis. But today, not much attention has been paid due to the loss of press influence and respect for the press! I did not want to deal with the friend who stole the photo. I know such things happen locally. I do not want to take too much into consideration, but staying silent to such a violation of rights is also against the self-respect of the person. So I didn’t want to be quiet too much. This impunity has penetrated society. Violence against women also stems from impunity. That day I asked that friend on Twitter, “With what courage”. This political, political atmosphere spreads everywhere …

– Get well soon! In Turkey and in the world of photojournalism doing?

There is a declining interest in photojournalism around the world. People may be tired of the violence and its dramatization. And with this coronavirus epidemic, something is happening to every person on a global scale, people may have started not to care much about what happens to other people. Third, money is no longer transferred. There is a big crisis in the industry.


– How was it when you started journalism?

90 held in Turkey in the journalism was not great. Police reporters of newspapers, hospital reporters, etc. but there was no ethics. There was no environment where journalists were under such pressure. More free journalism could be done. In terms of photography, there was an improvement in quality compared to that time, but the media to be published decreased.

Soma, 2014

– What’s the biggest problem with photojournalists?

Everyone wants to be famous in our profession. Everyone wants to shoot the best moment of the event. They think it’s that easy, but it’s not. You can go as far as you know. It can be seen as a big community from the outside, but there are few who do this job properly, for money, for PR. I’m not doing it for any of these. My concern is journalism; I have a mission that defends the right to news and tries to convey news to people. Beyond that, things like you get rewarded, you become famous are not important.

When describing photojournalism, I cannot pass without mentioning Robert Capa, he has a story like this: Capa plays poker and drinks whiskey with the pilots at the British airbase, punches and insults Capa while he is taking a photo while returning from duty. Capa can’t stand the pilot with whom he is playing poker and punching him when he returns from duty and immediately leaves and goes to join the Normandy decal. Meanwhile, he tells himself that it is vulgarity to wait for the last moment in the easiest place, without risk and effort, like other photographers …

– I read that you decided to start your profession after the Metin Göktepe murder …

He was killed when I was in high school. At that time, I was thinking about what job I would do, I remember saying that this job is for me.

Bulent Kilic


– Is this a job anyone can do?

I don’t like to perceive this as a job only. It is a very special job for me. Too much selfishness is not a profession to consider to have a good life. If anyone thinks so, the stone he will throw is 10 meters, it will not go.

– You are experiencing great difficulties during the events. Sometimes you have to remind the police about the laws …

Unfortunately, I have to teach law. Because I know the law better than any of them. I think they are given a very short training. For example it says to me “Delete photos”. The police do not have the right to have photographs deleted, nor do the prosecutors. Prosecutor seizes photo destructible by court order. When he says “delete”, he thinks he has been authorized. The other day we were in Akdamar Island, Van, a security guard came and said, “Shooting is prohibited here, delete the photos”. There is no warning anywhere, we were photographing here until yesterday, you just changed it. Imagine that the security guard sees the right to say to the journalists “Delete the pictures”!

For example, Nail Güreli was the President of the TGC when Metin Göktepe was killed. He went on the main news bulletin and told people about the rights of journalists. Today, if the police, state or mainstream media say “These are the rights of journalists, you will pay attention to them”, this will not happen to us. The journalist had a field, now he is gone. Even when you went to action, there was a space for journalists in the gap between the police and the citizen. That area always belonged to journalists until the mess. That area is gone now. That area was the domain of those who monitored and supervised the relationship between the state and the citizen. Who wants that space to be absent? It is an area that protects the citizens’ rights because it is. That is why journalists are not loved and their rights are ignored. Nothing else.

– How is the event followed when this area is not available?

There were institutions that broadcast the Gezi Resistance 24 hours a day. This was not what people think so much. Foreign media was buying it at that time. There was a joke that we are watching the Gezi Resistance from Norway. Because they were buying and showing those publications in Norway. Now those institutions have changed hands, they have fired people who work as independent journalists. If there is corruption and violation of rights somewhere, the institutions do not host the journalists who write them. The people they fulfill also stand behind the police.

Ukraine, 2014


– How censorship in Turkey, you can be accredited?

They do not send the accreditations they had previously sent, even if I wanted to. They do not give the press card renewed for months. They thanked them on July 15, because we took the first photos. I know that the first photos returned on TV are my photos. I had passed the photos of people lying on the ground in front of Kuleli even before there was a coup on TV. Then they took our photos, thanked them and sent the card themselves. Now they’re up to say, not a lot of institutions that recognize me as a journalist in Turkey. There is no card left in my pocket to prove that I am a journalist. It is a shame that a 20-year-old journalist’s press card is not renewed.


– I was very impressed by the documentary “Salt of the Earth” by photographer Sebastio Salgado …

Salgado has a very good quote there. After the photos he took in Rwanda, he said, “I hated people. I no longer believed in human beings. We didn’t deserve to live. “I don’t know how many times I put my camera down to cry over something I saw.” “I hated the torment that starving people inflict on each other,” he says. I understand him very well.

Turkey-Syria border, 2015. This photo won third place at the 2016 World Press Photo Awards.

– You have had moments like that too …

I did not fall into a wild environment at that level, but Salgado is a person who does this job with his emotions, by listening to his human side. So that rupture drives him to pull on something else. Even though it’s not as big as hers, I also had emotional breaks from time to time.

– You definitely had good moments …

There are times when you come in contact with beautiful people and discover a culture. You are happy when you see an unrelated, wise person at the top of the mountain who speaks like a philosopher in a place you never imagined.

Iraq, 2016


– What are your future projects?

I want to open an exhibition on Hasankeyf. If it’s outdoors, it could be on a street. I saw it by the canal in Paris, it was very beautiful. I believe it can be a good exhibition. (IMM Kültür AŞ should be interested)

– Have you seen the final version of Hasankeyf?

I try to go whenever I have time. It is now completely lake. You go into shock first, my perception is gone. Boats, people swimming, I didn’t understand where and where. Where is the bridge, where is the castle, you can’t understand. I ask the kids on the boat, they can’t take a nap either. We go a long way to get to the other side of the water. You go to another city in half an hour, now in 4-5 hours.


– Do you have any other testimonies, only photos?

Aleppo was completely destroyed. I had not been to Aleppo before the war, but I was there when the war started. Then I went many times, people changed, streets changed, weather changed, everything changed. When I first went, a boy was lying on the sidewalk, watching what was happening on the internet, and I asked, “What’s going on?” “Nothing important,” he said. I thought, “If this kid said something like that, there is no need to be afraid.” I always think of that kid. Confidently, “It’s okay, it’s not important” comes to him to say… Who knows where that kid is right now. Cities are destroyed, it’s gone, it doesn’t matter, what people are doing, that’s what matters. They took people to the Edirne border by buses. The mother has come with her daughter and obviously wants to save the life of her child. Sometimes I try to take a photo of that moment like this, but I also watch it. The mother’s trying to calm her little daughter, that girl’s crying is heartbreaking. I take it not to have a good or bad photo there, but because I want to remember it myself later. Sometimes it washes for 10 seconds, it hurts.

* Bülent Kılıç’s photographs came in 1st and 3rd in the News Photo of the Year category at the 2014 World Press Photo Awards. Kılıç was named the “Best Photographer of the Year” by Time magazine and The Guardian newspaper the same year. In 2015, “Visa Pour l’image”, which was held for the 27th time and is considered the biggest news photography festival in the world, also won the grand prize. He won 3rd place at the 2016 World Press Photo Awards.

* These are always the first target journalists in Turkey. On the 15th of July, the soldier was firing from the opposite side, and there were people attacking us. When I was hit in the head and fell to the ground, I came face-to-face with a stabbed soldier. Meanwhile, I heard it was said for me, “Let’s get off the bridge.” Then a fair person came out and saved me. My friend Selçuk Şamiloğlu from Hürriyet was lynched that day!

* If we are to define journalism, journalists draw the legal line between the state and people and are the guardians of that line. Journalists prevent this. They don’t like the press for that. After all, there is a law in the world. Whether it is up to states or not, they want it to be. On the one hand, they try to obey the law, on the other hand they are afraid of people.

Source: Cumhuriyet Gazetesi – Güncel by

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