An Exclusive Interview with Mehmet Masum

Mehmet Masum Suer is a Kurdish international photographer and freelance journalist living in city of Diyarbakir in Turkey. He began his career as a journalist in 1974, then worked for different agencies and newspapers of Turkey as a reporter, photo-journalist, writer, redactor and representative. He quit journalism after 1993, and got involved on his researches about history, culture and language. Mehmet Masum Suer has been taking photos professionally in different fields besides photojournalism since 2005. Suer takes pictures of historic places and buildings especially in citys of Diyarbakir, Mardin, Van and Hasankeyf. Meanwhile he has been involved on a project of taking photos of famous Kurdish politicians and artists. Cultural, historical values, and works of art are the subjects that take his attention. Suer also records the cultural festivals, and presentations as documentaries. Some of his exhibitions took place in Turkey, Iraq, and USA. Photos of Suer are especially used in touristic publications such as guide books, brochures, and postcards as well as they are used in international tourism fairs, newspapers, and magazines.

In this “Exclusive Interview” section, today we have the opportunity to talk with Mehmet Masum, as his photograph was winner of Photo of the Month – 42nd Month, 1st Place. Let’s discover more about Mehmet Masum, and his forays into photography in the following interview with him.

An Exclusive Interview with Keith Goldstein

An Exclusive Interview with Mehmet Masum, winner of Photo of the Month – 42nd Month, 1st Place.

Light & Composition: Greetings from Light & Composition, Mehmet. How does it feel being selected as the winner of Photo of the Month, 42nd Month, 1st Place?

Mehmet Masum: Certainly it is a very nice feeling. I am so happy, especially when my photographs are well appreciated from friends and photographers around the world. Also I am happy on behalf of “Saturday Mothers” who were the subject, as I photographed their feelings. I also thank to all the friends at Light and Composition who make me live with these feelings.

L&C: Your photographs, “Loss!”, was selected as Photo of the Month, is a wonderful candid photograph with artistic perspective, correct lighting, and very well presented. Overall, a great composition! Tell us more about your experience of taking this photograph.

Mehmet: About 50 thousands of people lost their lives in war which had continued for 30 years and came to an end between Kurdish armed forces PKK, and government forces. In this war tens of thousands of civilians were killed or got lost. Their mothers, relatives and friends have been doing sit down strike for 250 weeks every Saturday in İstanbul, Diyarbakır, and in some other cities. They want the murderers who killed their children to be found and judged by the government.

I have been following these actions for a long time, both for documenting them in photograph and supporting relatives of lost, in their right case. In one of these event a woman was crying with a photo of which glass was broken drew my attention. Especially that broken glass affected me. While taking this photograph I felt so emotional, my eyes filled with tears, and I was about to cry.

Loss! by Mehmet Masum

Loss! by Mehmet Masum

L&C: Besides this winning photograph, many people liked and voted for other photographs of yours in the Photo of the Month contest. You must be proud. How do you see your journey to the world of photography so far?

Mehmet: I am as a Kurdish photographer, I photograph to introduce my country Kurdistan, where Kurdish people live with its very own rich culture, art, and historical artifacts. For this reason arrival of my photos to the people all around the world makes me happy.

L&C: As we know, you are from the city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey. Do you think the rich diverse cultural and artistic heritage of New York portrayed a different essence to you?

Mehmet: The lands I have been living on affect me wholly. It shaped my point of view, with its nature, culture, people, art, and historical artifacts. I always want to share these beauties to the world. I see this fact in the photos of my friends from different countries, how everybody tells their stories.

L&C: Do you like a particular genre of photography and if so, why?

Mehmet:I see myself as a cultural photographer. I try to portray community and its culture with my photos. There are photos of scene, portrait, and my favorite cultural activities – the folk-dances, theatre, concert, etc. Among these I also like to take photos of historical buildings, in other words, architectural photos. People in my photos are authentic in terms of their clothes, as it is very important for me. I always love to pay attention to lively colors, but don’t like to work on photos with Photoshop. I am opposed to this. Photoshop kills photographs’ authentic value.

L&C: Mehmet, how long have you been a photographer?

Mehmet: In 1970, in my childhood, I owned my first camera which used 6×6 photographic film. I had been taking photos of my family back then. I still have those lovely photographs. Then in 1974 I started journalism as a reporter, and worked as journalist until 1992. Meanwhile I had many cameras. As a journalist I always took the photos of events.

Because of the war in my country and when murdering of journalists became widespread I had to quit journalism in 1992. After the year 2000, I started what I am doing today. Seeing that I knew how to do photograph, I thought then why didn’t I use it to introduce my country, and my culture, and began to work on it. In a short period of time, my photos drew much attention. They were used in newspapers, magazines, postcards, posters, stamps, books, and advertisement brochures. When my photos drew attention, I tried to improve myself. This effort still continues. I always try to take the better and the more beautiful one.

L&C: Have you ever exhibited your work? If so, then tell us about your first exhibiting experience.

Mehmet: My first exhibition was a combine exhibition in Batman in 2010, which I opened with a group of friends. Then in 2011, I opened my first personal exhibition in Diyarbakır the city where I live, at “Mesopotamia Social Forum”. In 2012, I exhibited in four different cities in Iraq Kurdistan Federal Government, and also in Duhok international film festival. In 2012, I had an exhibition to introducing Kurdish culture and geography in capital of Tenessee State, The United States of America. Also in 2012, I had another exhibition in Diyarbakır. And at the end of 2013, I opened an exhibition composed of portraits of Kurdish artists in city of Viranşehir, in Culture and Art Festival. I had 9 exhibitions in last 4 years.

L&C: Are you involved with any photography organizations? How does this help you in your photography?

Mehmet: I am a member of Diyarbakır Photo Amateurs Association (DIFAK), which is in service in Diyarbakır. Our association has nearly one hundred professional and amateur members. Our association generally carry out educational programs for amateurs. It organizes conferences and seminars.

L&C: What advice would you give our readers who want to take part in the journey around the world with photography?

Mehmet: I think, photography is a manner of telling stories. I suggest my friends who want to take photo, to have a good training, and do a lot of practice. The field of photography is improving rapidly, and for this we should follow new improvements carefully and learn them.

L&C: Thank you, Mehmet, for sharing your feelings and experiences with us.

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