Norman Behrendt has recently moved to London to pursue a masters in photography, having grown up in Germany. “I am a Berliner,” he explains. “Born in East-Berlin in the former GDR; I was eight when the Berlin Wall came down and Berlin and Germany got reunited. This memorable event and the collapse of the Soviet Union shaped my awareness of the social and political developments in Europe nowadays.”
His career in photography came courtesy of a slightly unexpected route. “After an apprenticeship as a graphic designer I studied communication design and photography at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam under Prof. Wiebke Loeper and Jan Stradtmann,” Norman says. “I graduated in 2012 with my first photobook burning down the house, a book about Berlin’s graffiti writers. Since then I have been working as an independent photographer.”
Recently, Norman Behrendt’s series Brave New Turkey was published by the New York Times Magazine accompanied by a feature written by Suzy Hansen on the “dual spiritual and economic purpose” of the buildings. Norman’s photographs depict a selection of majestic mosques, some completed, and some still in construction, all contextualised by their surroundings. “It is not a commissioned work. I was already working for some time on the series in Turkey, when I got in contact with the New York Times Magazine,” Norman says. “I have been regularly traveling to Turkey since 2015.”
“I did a road trip through Turkey from west to east with some friends of mine in 2014,” Norman continues by way of explanation. “We travelled mostly around the black sea region and visited a lot of unfamiliar cities in that area. On that trip I already noticed a lot of newly built mosques but it was not before 2015 when I was visiting the cities Ankara and Istanbul for a longer period, that this topic packed me and I started conceptually working on it. Since then, I travel regularly to Turkey and document newly built mosques in a Neo-Ottoman Style and their construction sites, especially in the new and modern districts of Ankara. Of course, I learned a lot during the process and still do, particularly how complex the situation of Turkey is.”
On the secret behind capturing such a strikingly beautiful set of images, Norman reveals: “I shoot on film and work with a Mamiya medium format camera. The process is slow; I use a tripod and spend most of the time in search of the best standpoint and waiting for the right light. Usually I work in the early morning or in the late afternoon before sunset. It`s not uncommon that I visit the places a couple of times before I shoot as I need to know the surrounding and to decide whether I come back in the morning or in the evening.”
The related publication Greetings from Turkey can be ordered from publisher Hartmann Projects here.