“Bearing Witness from Another Place”

23 Oct

The audience was trilled to see the brilliant work of Sedat Pakay, a photographer, who presented rare shots of the author James Baldwin and representing his life in Turkey, Istanbul. The University of Washington and the Northwest African American Museum, NAAM, invited Pakay to share his work in Seattle in relation to the upcoming exhibition “Bearing Witness from Another Place” opening in Seattle October 24.

(Photograph by Sedat Pakay of James Baldwin in Turkey)

The event was held in the new HUB building, at the UW Seattle campus. Despite the pouring rain and the presidential debate airing at the same time, people showed up, eager to see Pakay’s art and to learn more about Baldwin’s life. Reşat Kasaba, the Director of the Jackson School of International Studies, welcomed the audience by providing a short bio about the guest speaker. Pakay then began his presentation with a short documentary film reflecting on Baldwin’s life in Turkey.

From the film and from Pakay’s explanation, the audience understood that Baldwin was a person who faced many challenges throughout his life. He was a black homosexual man forced to leave his American identity behind, because of racial segregation, escaping to Turkey, while searching self-realization as a writer. Pakay revealed how significant Turkey has been in his life, it was a place where he could work peacefully and concentrate on his writing. But Baldwin never chose Turkey but he was rather forced to leave America escaping the pressures of racial and sexual prejudices.

During the break, attendees for to talk to each other while having refreshments and snacks including: cheeses, crackers, fruits, juices and sweets.

Pakay’s photographs instantly grabbed the audiences’ attention, precisely reflecting on Baldwin’s life: his emotions, his expressions and his fears. He portrayed the author’s image, the intellectual with all of his complexities, on a professional and personal level. Instead of letting the slide show roll by, Pakay narrated the images, highlighting on the importance of each one. Some of the photographs were provocative  – challenging many misconceptions one might have about race.

During the presentation, Pakay expressed how important it was for him to photograph Baldwin on a background very different from his personal one. He also expressed how happy he was to be able to document the truths surrounding this African-American homosexual friend.

Pakay also recalled a conversation in which Baldwin has expressed himself stating that: “The American men are just too paranoid on the subject of homosexuality.”

The audience asked many additional questions and the meeting continued the full two hours.

(Sedat Pakay left, Reşat Kasaba right. Photograph by Simona Trakiyska)

(Sedat Pakay left, Resat Kasaba right. Photograph by Simona Trakiyska)

On a personal note, I found the photographs to be very meaningful, reflecting the truth of Baldwin’s life. America in the 1960s was a place of prejudice and discrimination, against homosexuals, particularly against those of African American descent and his escape seemed necessary in order to protect himself. I think it is important to see that Turkey was the place where he pursued his life happily, beyond the constant racial challenges he was faced with in America.

This meeting was very beneficial because the audience asked personal questions, which only Pakay would have known the answers to, since Baldwin was a very close friend of his. Sedat Pakay was able to introduce us with the new understanding of escape, the re-establishment of yourself in a different cultural space, where society is more receptive to your sexual and professional preferences.

“The lecture/slide-show was in conjunction with the NAAM exhibition “Bearing Witness from Another Place: James Baldwin in Turkey,” which will be held in Seattle, Oct. 20, 2012-Sept. 29, 2013.”

SimonaS. Trakiyska is a journalist, freelance writer and a world traveler with a global mindset. She is based in the Pacific Northwest and her focus is on international affairs, political issues and human rights. She is passionate about ethnic equality and global respect.
You can contact her on Twitter @Simonatrak.

A Seattle Photographer reaches out to represent the rest of the world

21 Oct

Bryan Kopp is a self-thought photographer who is a questioner and traveler at heart. His curiosity has helped him to develop a strong passion for the unknown, particularity speaking about the mystery “of the other.” Kopp was forced to think “outside the box,” while trying to figure out different ways through which he could represent the unique layers to one’s identity, from the ethnic to the cultural aspect. And so, he used what he knew best, his camera.


 (Photograph by Anna Goren of Bryan Kopp)

This is when his project “Survey of the world” was born. Today his project serves as a tool, through which he is able to collect different multicultural images, representing personal views and identities, while reflecting on the specific characterization of those geographical places. Kopp believes that interpreting these multicultural perspectives is incredibly important, because it broadens the outsider’s point of view about the surrounding world.

When I asked Bryan what differentiates him from other photographers, he answered: “I don’t know exactly what differentiates me from others, but what I do know is that I always try to create a space where people can simply be themselves, I listen to the unique truths of each subject and then I reveal the authentic quality of each one, which can be frequently overlooked.”

(Photograph by Bryan Kopp, Rwanda)

Kopp’s travel experiences have thought him that he is not only the messenger, but he is also the representative of American culture around the world. He understands, that many people in other parts of the world view Americans as “fat” and “ignorant,” the typical stereotype, but he challenges that singular assumption. He engages in global conversation, he spreads awareness and he builds strong multicultural relationships. Kopp represents through his work the distinctive differences between continents. The “project” has broadened his awareness and deepened his consciousness. Photography has become his primary means for connecting with people, anyone and everyone. He has found that sharing/exploring a different perspective is the best way to actively cultivate more respect and understanding of the world. Through his work, of still images, Kopp challenges a variety of viewers and their assumptions of the world. His work represents, class, race, gender and emotion, through which we connect, understanding the value of acceptance. He represents minorities. He delivers these truths to us, now it’s our time to think outside the box.

(Photograph by Bryan Kopp, Kenya)

Kopp has already traveled and photographed people from many countries, such as: Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Canada, U.K. and U.S. “Survey of the world” is an ongoing project and he hopes to be able to complete it in about 3-4 years. In the meantime, he will continue to explore the world…

His ardor for photography allowed him to represent “the other,” what is your way?

SimonaS. Trakiyska is a journalist, freelance writer and a world traveler with a global mindset. She is based in the Pacific Northwest and her focus is on international affairs, political issues and human rights. She is passionate about ethnic equality and global respect.
You can contact her on Twitter @Simonatrak.

On the ground of “the other,” I tasted home

14 Oct

( Morocco, Marrakech)

This happened almost two years ago, when an unplanned and sudden journey filled the dates on my travel calendar. I had less than a month to prepare for a trip that was going to last over forty days. One of the countries that I was going to visit was located in the North African part of the world, Morocco. I was fairly knowledgeable about this geographical region and I knew quite a bit about the practiced religion, the architectural design patterns and the customs, but what I didn’t know was some fundamental knowledge of the Moroccan and Berber cuisine, which I was ready to explore. Continue reading

“The Immigrant In Us”

5 Oct

(Photograph by Hilmi Calis)

I grew up in Europe and I now live the Pacific Northwest. When I left, I was uncertain about many things, but most importantly if I would fit. I understood that in order to find a sense of belonging I needed to “self-identify” within the new cultural space.

I realized that in order for me to have a balanced life, I needed to accept the new cultural norms and I needed to stop thinking if I would be accepted or not. The adjustments were difficult, and they seemed to be an unavoidable part of my new life.

I remember, I used to introduce myself as Mona, knowing that it was easier for the “others” to pronounce my name. A world traveler, an American, once told me: “Don’t ever change your name.”

Continue reading