A few years ago, I had the pleasure to meet Mustafa Hacalaki on Instagram. I was immediately drawn to his dreamy aesthetics and cinematic quality of his imagery. Mustafa has his own unique style. With a keen eye, one can easily pick his work out from the rest merely by the choice of moody and atmospheric settings, the shadowy or reflective characters and the bold lines created by surrounding objects and architecture that lead the eye directly into the main subject. Often framing his characters, solo, in cafe’s, at night, on quiet walks through parks or urban environments, he is able to capture these intimate moments of solitude, giving us the viewer a chance to be a fly on the wall and become a voyeur in their lives for a moment. Since meeting and getting to know him, I realize that these images seem to mirror his very own introverted and quiet disposition. He has a sensitive and thoughtful eye and through his lens he becomes a beautiful witness in capturing the simple moments that make up a day.
Mustafa has not only been a great source of inspiration for my own work but also a good friend. Enjoy a interview, in which I sit down and chat about how he got his start into photography, his creative process and artistic journey as a photographer and graphic designer. We also talk about his latest photo book called Le Passé Composé”. Newly self published and being sold on limited editions. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.
Where were you born?
I was born and grew up in Izmir / Turkey. I moved to Montréal in 2009.
What is your background with school? Did you take any formal training in photography or are you self taught?
I studied art education and printmaking techniques and I started to develop interest for photography at that period.
When and what was your initial start into the photography?
During my first year of University, in 1999, I started doing photography, with my grandfather's old film camera. It was such a great pleasure learning how to develop my own films too.
What was your first camera? and what are you shooting with today? What have been some of your favourite camera’s to shoot with and why?
My first camera was my grandfathers Kiev brand old Russian camera, then at some point I used my uncle’s Zenith camera. Since 2014, I’ve been using Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. I shoot mostly with Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 50mm and 35mm focal lengths. I like Fujifilm brand cameras because they give me almost the same pleasure as when I started to learn photography with that old film cameras.
I would assume you started out in shooting film? When did you make the switch and why? and do you still use film?
I made the switch when digital cameras started be popular. Because it is faster to see the result and I am very impatient. Although I still have a few film cameras I don’t shoot film nowadays.
Why create? or what compels you to take photos?
Creating is a kind of instinct for me. I don’t force myself to create, it comes naturally. I don’t go out just to take photos. I prefer to have a camera with me all the time, to document life and to find something beautiful in mundane. Because I believe the most beautiful scenes come to us at unexpected times.
Which photographers inspire you or influence your work?
I admire a lot the works of great masters such as Elliott Erwitt, William Eggleston and Harry Gruyaert. But I must admit that I take most of my inspirations from cinema and from famous directors. I love the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, Abbas Kiarostami and Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
What is mainly your subject matter? Can you describe you general aesthetic to your imagery?
Everything can be the subject of my photography. I love capturing cinematic moments, landscapes, portraits or just simple street scenes.
How to you keep yourself inspired? Is there a certain process to your creativity?
I walk a lot in the city and I enjoy studying the light. I try watch recent works of my favourite directors and sometimes I just go take a look at the books of master photographers.
Tell us about this new book you have just published? The title, the general theme to your imagery ?
The title is “Le Passé Composé” which is the most used past tense in modern French language. I thought that this title would reflect nicely my photography but in a poetic way. While photographing something, the moment we decide to press the shutter release and the moment we capture becomes “the past”. Maybe a few seconds, but it is the past all the same and it will never be again. In my photography, those moments are all carefully composed “past times” which will hopefully stay for a long time not forgotten. As I said, it is all about leaving a trace behind.
Did you enjoy the process of making a book? Do you feel your graphic designing background has a influence in your general aesthetics of layout?
Creating a book is a very challenging and complex process. Making a selection of photos was the most difficult part I guess. And yes, I believe my graphic designer background has a big influence in general but I always try to improve myself and try new things while designing something.
Any upcoming projects you would like to do ?
Hopefully I’d like to show the same project as a personal exhibition in a public gallery.
I see you enjoy traveling? Where have been some of your favourite places to photography? And why? Secondly, where are some of the dreams places in which you would like to travel to and document the experience.
I enjoyed a lot visiting France and Portugal. But in Portugal I really felt close to my own culture. I’d like to go back there at some point again. I’ve always dreamt to photograph Eastern European cities, like Budapest, Prague or Sofia. I hope one day I can go visit those places too.
We met on instagram. How do you feel about instagram these days. Do you still consider it agood tool to connect with the community, promote your work etc.? Any thoughts on this since you started to use it?
I’ve been using Instagram for a longtime. It is a great tool to connect with people from different countries, promote your work and share ideas. But doing that demands a lot of effort and sometimes it can be very tiring. It is not easy to create a good photography in a daily basis. But I like sharing my work there and getting some feedback almost instantly.
All images copyright- Mustafa Hacalaki