The traditional practice of street photography is often characterized by candid moments, gestures and facial expressions of passersby, brought together into shots and series united by the singular gaze of a photographer through the lens of their camera. But since the inception of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment,” the definition of this medium has slowly undergone a transformation, incorporating fresh perspectives and evolving styles best exemplified in the self-portrait work of photographers like Vivian Maier, Lee Friedlander and André Kertész.

One photographer embracing this particular change is İlker Karaman, who incorporates the traditional subject matter of street scenes by relegating them as the backdrop for what he’s really seeking out: an understanding of his own position in his surroundings. Addressing why he began making a street series that reveals his own presence through shadows and reflections, Karaman explains, “We aren’t accustomed to seeing a photographer in his photograph. I realized that if the photographer places himself within the photo in a smart way, this creates a visual puzzle, inviting viewers to ask, ‘How?’ With this question in mind, each photograph becomes more interesting and eye-catching.”

The title for this venture, In Search of Myself, is thus particularly apt. Karaman explains the significance behind his endless visual journey, reflecting, “Examining oneself to find out who you are is one of the oldest pursuits for us human beings. My character and my knowledge are shaped by the environment that I live in, and my photographic practice incorporates codes from my understanding of this life. I’m trying to discover myself in my photos. In this series, I tried to make myself visible in each frame to emphasize my research into understanding who I am.”

Photography has long been a tool for self-discovery and personal reflection, and it’s interesting to blur the lines between this personal journey and the traditional genre of street. When asked why he specifically returns to photography to explore these personal themes, Karaman explains, “To be aware of visual beauty around us is not so easy for us in the modern world. We live in hurry and want to be faster to fulfill our responsibilities, and then there is no time left to discover our environment. We neglect the beauty, even if it is so close to us. I want to visually show people what they have come to ignore in their daily lives on the streets, through my own presence within them.”

—Cat Lachowskyj

İlker Karaman’s series “In Pursuit of Myself” was the second prize series winner in our Street Photography Awards 2018. Explore work by all 39 of the winners, finalists, and jurors’ picks.