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GoLocalProv | Appreciate the photography of A. Cemal Ekin

Thursday, September 29, 2022

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PHOTO: Ekin

Artist A. Cemal Ekin has turned his photographic lens to a variety of subjects throughout his career, from the architecture of Hagia Sophia to aerial views of local beaches. Through October 14, 2022, at the RI Center for Photographic Arts in Providence, viewers have the chance to see a suite of Ekin’s photographs that inspired the 2013 Festival Ballet performance titled “Orchis.” Graceful and elegant, the images in the Orchis series showcase Ekin’s virtuosity as a photographer whose work has provided cross inspiration to his peers in the performing arts.

Ekin, originally from Turkey, has spent most of his life taking photographs as a hobby. A longtime professor of marketing at Providence College, he holds an undergraduate degree and a Ph.D. from Istanbul Academy of Economics and Business. He also holds an MBA from the University of Michigan.

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Speaking about the impact of his long career as a university teacher on his artistic creation, Ekin says: “Teaching has affected my photography in different ways. First, it heightened my curiosity about the world around me. This got me interested in many different subjects, from salt and pepper shakers to infrared aerial views. Second, teaching made me aware of how different minds grasp new ideas and shaped the way I share what I know. And finally, like in academia, I realized that the more I wrote about a subject, the better it crystallized in my mind.

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PHOTO: Ekin

He continues: “The results of the above are a wide variety of subjects in my work, a rich collection of articles and numerous presentations at local and regional clubs and events.”

Some of Ekin’s earliest memories of taking photos date back to around the age of eight, when he got his hands on his father’s Leica. It was a formative moment that led him to take pictures throughout his life alongside other pursuits. In the series presented at RICPA, Elkin took as subject the fall of the petals of a rare and beautiful orchid. The resulting images inspired a ballet, which is also documented in the exhibit’s photographs.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

Speaking about the complexity of the overlap between photography and the performing arts, he says: “This experience has been extremely rewarding and at times quite frustrating. Ballet and photography have an interesting relationship. A performance is a stream of fleeting moments. Photography selects some of these moments and creates recordings of them, almost like picking dead leaves from a stream of water. Dancers are very interested in the perfection of their recorded moments. Me, as a photographer, I am interested in the lines, forms, forms, textures recorded in the frame. Surely there are substantial overlaps between the two. But I found the dancers to be less willing to accept photographic sensibilities. All in all, the collaboration was extremely enriching and, if I can say it myself, successful.

The overlap between Ekin’s photographs and the elegant ballet they shaped is a fascinating achievement and a roadmap for other artists who might pursue such relationships.

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PHOTO: Ekin

Considering the place that photography now occupies in his life, Ekin is both thoughtful and forward-looking. He says, “At my age, I try to enjoy my adventure and hope that another emerging project can take me on another exciting journey. As I get physically weaker, I can reduce my gear, but not my curiosity. Photography has been part of my life for a very long time. It’s like food, I have to photograph, write or read about photography, and share what little I know with anyone who wants to learn. There is no end to learning and teaching.

Ekin’s photographs are a vehicle for new ways of seeing the world and for reframing visions of life and experience. They are indeed excellent teaching tools.

When asked what he hopes visitors will take away from the exhibition of his photographs at the RI Center for Photographic Arts, Ekin said, “I would like visitors to understand that anything can be photographed, even dried flowers and shriveled. It is up to the photographer to present them as compelling subjects. Dried flowers took me on an exciting journey as an emerging project. From the moment I noticed the shapes they took on as they dried, I also realized that death and dying can be beautiful and are unavoidable parts of the adventure we call life.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

Ekin’s exhibition at RICPA is on view until October 14. The gallery is located at 118 North Main Street and is open to the public Thursday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.riphotocenter.org. Learn more about A. Cemal Ekin at www.keptlight.com.

Michael Rose is a multi-talented fine arts professional based in southern New England. Since 2014, he has been the gallery director of the historic Providence Art Club, one of the nation’s oldest arts organizations. In his current freelance work, he advises collectors and artists, provides appraisal services, teaches and carries out curatorial projects.

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