Before he turned his lens to the complex political and social landscape of contemporary Turkey in his series “The Parallel State,” photographer Guy Martin spent several years documenting the revolutions in Libya, Egypt, and other parts of North Africa and the Middle East. On April 20, 2011, he was severely injured in a mortar attack in Libya—at that point, Martin took a much-needed step back from the dangerous world of photojournalism in the Middle East.
In fact, it would be one year before Martin could walk again; another six months before he felt the desire to make more pictures. But at the end of 2012, Martin relocated to Istanbul and began his project “The Parallel State.”
Five years on, this multi-faceted series was chosen by Les Rencontres d’Arles as a recipient of the New Discovery Award in 2017. Curious to learn more, the LensCulture team caught up with Martin during the opening week of his exhibition in Arles and followed him through the show, as he explained the complex and compelling images that comprise Turkey’s “parallel state.”
“The Parallel State” consists of both documentary images shot on the streets of Turkey as well as documentary-style photographs taken on the set of a wildly popular soap opera, As Time Goes By.
By coupling the staged photos with images from protests like the one in Taksim Gezi Park, Martin’s work quietly acknowledges the performative aspects of modern revolutions. In one particularly striking moment, he notes that he approached a young protestor suffering from the effects of tear gas; the protestor’s friends, rather than helping their companion, pushed him onto the ground and offered him to Martin and his camera.
Ultimately, Martin’s project allows us to explore our “post-truth” moment—as real and frightening in Turkey as it is in the United States and all over the world. Whether on the set of a TV show or the “set” of a protest, many of us feel increasingly divided and at odds with the idea of a shared reality. See more of the work from this remarkable series—and hear from Martin himself—in our latest video interview.
Editors’ note: This exhibition was curated by Elizabeth Breiner for nineteensixtyeight, a platform that represents Guy Martin alongside a range of award-winning contemporary photographers. Guy Martin was selected for the Rencontres d’Arles New Discovery Award 2017, presented at the Atelier de la Mécanique in Arles, France.