FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who are you?
We are a team of three. Gizem Kendik is a project coordinator at a NGO. Didem Kendik works as a photography and social media editor at a magazine. Deniz Cem Önduygu is a visual communication designer. We have a distribution of duty in accordance with our areas of expertise but we make the general decisions together. We carry out Istanbul Okurken as a voluntary project; it is not connected to any institution or sponsor.
Why did you start this project?
As curious people who read a lot in public transport (and who like to take photographs), we wanted to create a documentation about this activity. Maybe we also wanted to normalize reading in public transport, and to remind people who complain about not being able to find time to read about this option. We were also motivated by the fact that Istanbul is a city where people spend a lot of time in a great variety of public transport modes. We do not aim to glorify readers, compare them to people doing other things (playing games on smartphones, etc.), or give the message “Everybody should read!” with Istanbul Okurken; we are not romantics. We’re just interested in people who read during their time spent in public transport, and we photograph them.
Do you get consent from the readers you photograph? How natural are the poses?
We take the photographs during our own public transport trips. When we encounter a reader, we briefly talk about the project and get permission before or after taking the photograph depending on the conditions (crowd, angle, etc.). We give them a bookmark containing our logo and contact info so that they can see how the photo is used and let us know if they change their mind. We also photograph the cover of the book as a note to ourselves, again with their permission. (Roughly, 75% of the readers are okay with being photographed, and 95% of these people let us learn the book information.) If we talk to someone before taking the photograph, we don’t ask for any specific poses; we say “Please continue to read just like before we talked”.
We don’t see many photographs of people using Kindle or similar devices; do you only document printed books?
No, we want to document e-readers too but they are hard to run across.
I too have similar photographs, will you publish them?
We get this question a lot. We had even thought about embedding an Instagram feed in our website to display photographs from other people. We decided not to create such a system because of two distinct worries: (1) photographs that are entirely staged and (2) photographs taken without permission. We take the issue of consent seriously and don’t want Istanbul Okurken to turn into a peeping project over which we have little control. So we don’t systematically include photos coming from other people in our main archive on the website, but we will try to publish photos that we believe have no consent issues on our social media accounts.
What are your future plans?
One of our primary goals is to extend the types of public transport as much as we can, adding buses, tramways, etc. We may have to enlarge the team for this. We plan to prepare a report and present it to institutions who may be interested, when we have enough data. Creating a book out of our photo archive is also one of our dreams.
What does “Istanbul Okurken” mean?
It means “While Istanbul Reads”.