Alp Peker’s photography captures the intersection of Turkish culture and the queer community
The Turkish photographer explains how the Adobe Stock Advocates program is funding a diverse array of artists and teaching them how to propagate inclusivity.
- It's Nice That
- 8 December 2021
For Alp Peker, getting into photography was a long process. In their early highschool years, their father bought them a small camera and they would take photographs of everything. As their life shaped their photography, Alp started taking abstract portraits of people in “rather uncomfortable situations,” they tell us. “My photographs are my protest against discriminations surrounding my life, they are my manifesto to stay true to my weird self.” The 24-year-old photographer who hails from Izmir, Turkey embodies the very definition of a hybrid: they straddle a medical career with a photographic practice. Their work chooses to express protest, especially against the social norms surrounding gender, using these motifs as a segue into the dialogue on human rights, discrimination, and gender inequality.
“Oh my,” Alp proclaims, “the Advocates program is not just funding artists of different communities like myself but teaching us how to propagate inclusivity.” The Adobe Stock Advocates program, an initiative from Adobe Stock, champions artists who come from an underrepresented community and represent these communities in their work. Through such a program, Adobe hopes it can drive more inclusive representation in the media.
For the Artist Development Fund, Alp was inspired by their own Turkish culture, along with the juxtaposition of conservatism versus progressive lifestyles. “Turkish culture and daily life is so different from what I see in the media,” says Alp, “and of course it’s underrepresented. From the Turkish baths to the transgender community in my city, to the kıraathanes (coffee houses) of the elderly, to the Islamic culture of Turkey that collides with the western lifestyle – everything is so different and interesting, and I want to portray it.” Currently a Premium collection artist with Adobe Stock, Alp has exhibited twice in Grenoble, France, in 2019. Alp’s work has been published by VSCO, in Gucci Beauty, PhotoVogue, Lucie Foundation, and Galerie Tracanelli, to name a few.
“It’s funny because in Turkish, we only have one pronoun for anything or person and it’s “O”,” claims Alp, so they say they never had to think about pronouns. “It’s important that I’m recognised: I’m a nonbinary person, I wouldn’t want to be categorised as male.” The creative industry, they say, is an industry where conventions are smashed. “If there’s one industry to break gender stereotypes, and lead the world in this matter, it’s this one.”
This is why programs like Adobe’s are so vital when it comes to protesting socially conscious issues including issues of gender and identity where so many individuals face discrimination on a daily basis. “The intersection is quite distinct and beautiful,” says Alp, on the meeting of the LGBTQIA+ community and Turkish culture. “I’ve seen the clash of the LGBTQIA+ community and the conservative, mixed up with Turkish/Anatolian history and culture. Drag queens walking in the same narrow streets elderly play cards in. Zennes, male dancers who dress in Ottoman/Anatolian traditional costumes, give dance performances on special events and days.”
Within the Advocates program, there are several initiatives – including the $500,000 Artist Development Fund – aimed at content development, promoting creators, and education for both artists and stock buyers.. Adobe Stock has also released a series of deliberately inclusive, intersectional Creative Briefs, part of an effort to crowdsource content from a global community of artists. With this initiative, Adobe’s striving to help both Adobe Stock artists and Creative Cloud stock customers know how to be more culturally sensitive, aware, and accurate in the production and use of stock assets that shape the media industry.
Alp adds on how the fund helps to uphold diversity in various industries: “A marriage counseling group could easily include photographs of queer couples to their websites. Any leader could cast more BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ people for their work. Just like the Adobe Advocates page, more workplaces could turn their visual products into audible features for people who can't read or have a hard time reading. It just comes with having the idea.”
For this commission, Alp knew it was going to be “the most emotional, expressive pieces of photography” he could ever make. “I felt like I was growing in the process,” he continues, learning more and more.” Expanding on this, Alp feels the programme taught them that photography and art can feed and community: they had “so many positive responses from the LGBTQIA+ community” who resonated with the work. “Queer art makes queer lives. Simple as that,” Alp says. “And I need to do it more. That’s what I’ve learnt.”
When Alp became aware of the Adobe Development Fund, they were instantly gripped by the specific story they could portray using their artistic voice. Their own life, filled with such authentic Turkish culture, history, architecture, art, and food, they claim, is mixed with the complex and beautiful community Alp lives in. “I needed a push, and the Adobe Development Fund was the force.” When Alp photographs, they love making people explore themselves: “It’s therapy for both sides. I got to see the emotional sides of people I know, and many I met for the first time.”
Alp recommends that creatives submit their own work to the next Adobe Development Fund exploring themes of identity and gender because these topics are always evolving. There’s a huge need for truly authentic and diverse new stock images across the creative industry. So whether you’re hoping to increase the diversity of your own heritage or on behalf of a beloved one or community, there is plenty of opportunity for artists to set the visual record straight while also making money from stock images.
“Even the pride flag is changing, getting new shapes and colours every now and then. And it's important that we represent what it is.” Declarations, protests, discussions don’t always occur in the streets, as Alp puts it, especially in a world of social media and instant Internet connection. Through social media and technology, Alp thinks that art has now “gained the power to virtually teach generations to be kinder and humane.”