Suzan Pektaş was born and raised in the Balkans and currently lives in Istanbul. She developed her passion for visual language during her college years and later chose it as her profession. Since 2015, she has been exploring various forms of expressions at the crossroads of visual and documentary art. Her current projects focus on the identity of the individual in relationship to his or her environment, dealing mostly with women, urban transformation and immigration.
“Dreams the Black Sea ” is her second book, published by Eyeshot in 2021, with an introduction by Gulnara Samoilova. The publication is a tribute to the author’s childhood and aims to reshape the mesmerising stories told by her grandfather, a disabled actor, about headless horses, children, and the allure of the sea. Some of the most memorable times she had as a child were the summer times that the whole family used to spend in a small hut on the Black Sea coast. She still bears the magic of those stories. After 25 years, when she returned to visit her native Bulgaria with her family, the sea evoked all those memories interrupting her thoughts and daydreams, and she slowly became obsessed with the Black sea and its myths. She sees her journey as a documentation of life along the coast and the mysticism that existed in her grandfather’s stories. She wandered the region, especially the southern part, looking for traces of her past, for visual notes that would connect her current existence to her childhood by the sea and the sea itself.
The sea is the pot that blends the people of the Black Sea basin, and in her shots Susan Pektas has framed their daily activities, simple and fragile events along the coast, delving into multiple cultural layers of the region with a touch of personal mysticism and spirituality. This is also true of the photograph included as a Fine Art print in the Black Edition of the book, which depicts an episode of common daily life on the Black Sea coast: people enjoying hot springs beside the sea. Therefore, we asked the photographer to tell us about this shot to learn more about the culture of her homeland and her process of creative inspiration.
Tell us more about the Black Edition shot. When and where was it taken? What experience does it portray?
That shot was taken in Bulgaria near Varna, close to my hometown. It portrays a daily scene that one can come across in a Black Sea town. Elder Bulgarians are enjoying an open air natural spa by the seaside.
Why did you decide to capture that precise moment? What drew you to it?
All shots in the book are related to a childhood memoir of mine, a moment from my past. My grandpa is a central figure of my life in Bulgaria. He was an actor who was very fond of spending time with his friends in such seaside spas. I imagined them getting together in that spa and enjoying themselves, chatting and laughing.
What do you like the most about that photograph?
I believe that the past is closely related to how we feel today, it is not fixed but rather has a dynamic nature tied to our present. We forget and remember constantly, each time with a new touch. This view frees me from a cold fixed reality. I am certainly connected to my past but also free from it as I can transform it with my visual narratives. I noticed this while talking about my grandpa’s stories in my travels. After some point, I started to wonder whether I am telling my grandpa’s stories or my own. It all turned into a freeing performative activity. This shot is one such performance.
What camera and what lens did you use? What Diaphragm, shutter speed and ISO, and why?
Leica M-P 240 with Summilux-M 35 f/2 Asph. F11 1/180 ISO 200. I had set it according to the light I had at that moment.
Compared to its big brother, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea has been largely overlooked. Suzan’s journey thus takes us on a discovery of new peoples, emotions and identities, across a blurred line between the present moment and reminiscences of the past.