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Work / Photography

Ahmet Unver uses photography to explore his Swedish and Turkish roots

Ahmet Unver was born in Stockholm to Turkish parents and, although now based in London, it’s the relationship between the two countries he sees as “home” that has informed much of his photographic practice. He initially moved to England to study communication at the University of Brighton but “became totally convinced that photography was what I wanted to do with my life.” Ahmet therefore switched courses and hasn’t looked back.

It’s photography’s ability to build a narrative “by combining individual images that might not necessarily have been shot at the same place or time,” that really interests Ahmet. This is a technique he employs in his ongoing series Inherently Yours, Yet Strangely Foreign. In 2008, Ahmet moved to Istanbul from Sweden, to familiarise himself with the culture he has inherited from his parents – “something about Turkey drew me there; I suppose it was the urge to experience and understand my heritage better.” Before moving there, Ahmet believed it was “a culture I knew and identified with,” he explains, adding that, “I quickly realised that I was neither tourist nor local and the sense of detachment was there from the very beginning.”

Aerial views of building sites sit alongside portraits of strangers and observations from the city’s streets. Through combining these seemingly disparate scenes that paint a picture of Istanbul’s quirks, Ahmet was able to understand the country and his connection to it. Having worked on the project for six years, the final part of Inherently Yours, Yet Strangely Foreign will be a film based in Turkey, in the town of Kulu, where Ahmet’s family and most of the Swedish-Turks have migrated from.

The migrant community of Swedish-Turks was, in fact, the focus of one of Ahmet’s previous projects Far Away. The series provides a sensitive investigation into the first-generation of Swedish-Turks who live isolated from parts of Swedish society. “They make conscious decisions about how much ‘Swedishness’ is allowed into their lives,” explains Ahmet. The included photographs allow him to convey the “viscous cycle” he has observed – “they were hoping they would one day move back to Turkey and therefore they never completely put effort in to making Sweden their home. The feeling of being outsiders might have grown from there,” he tells us.

The images in Far Away are compassionate and full of fondness. They provide both a documentation of Sweden’s beautiful landscape and a community who have found their home there. “Although I technically only worked on it for one year, I had lived its narrative for 20 years,” explains Ahmet when describing the project. This personal link is clear, allowing the series to highlight how inherently connected Swedish-Turks have become with their surroundings and how Ahmet (alongside many others) fits into this.

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Ahmet Unver: Far Away

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Ahmet Unver: Far Away

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Ahmet Unver: Far Away

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Ahmet Unver: Far Away

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Ahmet Unver: Far Away

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Ahmet Unver: Far Away

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Ahmet Unver: Inherently Yours, Yet Strangely Foreign

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Ahmet Unver: Inherently Yours, Yet Strangely Foreign

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Ahmet Unver: Inherently Yours, Yet Strangely Foreign

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Ahmet Unver: Inherently Yours, Yet Strangely Foreign

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Ahmet Unver: Inherently Yours, Yet Strangely Foreign

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Ahmet Unver: Inherently Yours, Yet Strangely Foreign