A good photograph transcends the visual representation of reality, speaks to our emotions, and has the transformative power to inspire change.
Interview With Annette Louise Solakoğlu, Photographer and Filmmaker

This interview was conducted by Selva Ozelli


Tell us about your journey in becoming a filmmaker and photographer.

From a young age, I was drawn to visual arts. After completing a graduate degree in film, I spent a decade working as an independent director and producer, as well as teaching. While working with moving images, I always found inspiration in the works of still photographers like Mary Ellen Mark, Helen Levitt and Robert Frank, who felt comfortable going back and forth between film and photography. Both disciplines  have a lot in common. The stillness of a photograph forces you to stop and look. As a photographer, I choose a single slice of reality and composition to tell my story.  A good photograph transcends the visual representation of reality, speaks to our emotions, and has the transformative power to inspire change.

What attracted you to photographing the pollution in the Bosporus?

The Bosporus Strait, a narrow waterway that separates Europe from Asia, is not only the historic and cultural symbol of Istanbul but also a vital marine ecosystem. However, as the only waterway to connect the Black Sea countries and the rest of the world, an estimated 48,000 container vessels pass through the Bosporus annually, making it one of the busiest straights in the world. 

Living on the shore of the Bosporus, I witness directly the ecological impact of heavy cargo ship, oil tanker and ferry traffic, urbanization, overfishing, and inadequate waste management. It saddens me deeply to some days see garbage patches and diesel film float on its shores, to see the delicate balance of biodiversity threatened. I aim to express this sentiment through my photography and wish to highlight the urgent need for all of us to pay attention, adopt sustainable practices and call for action to restore the ecological integrity of this iconic waterway. The Bosporus is to this day one of the most beautiful and beloved places in Turkey and provides a place of respite and joy for the over 17 million inhabitants of Istanbul.

What are the impacts of pollution to biodiversity in Bosporus/Oceans?

One of the most visible impacts of pollution in the Bosporus is the degradation of water quality. Accidental oil spills, ship emissions, plastic waste, urban runoff, etc. have introduced contaminants into the water, affecting the health of fish, seabirds, and other marine animals. Mistaking plastic debris for food, they ingest or become entangled in plastic, leading to injury and suffocation. Part of this habitat degradation and rising water temperatures are blooming jellyfish populations, which I photographed. Research has found that fish in the Bosporus contain heavy metals and microplastics, which poses a risk to predators, including us humans who consume them.

What interested you in joining the UNESCO OCEAN DECADE TIDES OF CHANGE WAVES OF HOPE ART SHOW? Tell us about your interest in ocean preservation.

Action must be taken to prevent further damage and to ensure the Bosporus remains a balanced ecosystem for future generations to enjoy. Measures to reduce pollution, such as the implementation of stricter emission standards for ships, the establishment of marine protected areas, and the adoption of clean technologies, are essential to safeguarding the Bosporus and oceans worldwide. 

Through various scientific initiatives and partnership endorsements, such as this art exhibit, UNESCO's Ocean Decade has taken a leading role in ocean preservation. Its goal is to mobilizie governments, scientists, policymakers and nonprofits to address ocean preservation. I am honored that our art show can be a part of this global effort.

How does the art work in UNESCO OCEAN DECADE TIDES OF CHANGE WAVES OF HOPE ART SHOW draw attention to ocean preservation, ocean literacy to better understand, manage and sustain ocean resources?

Art can convey the beauty and fragility of the oceans and perhaps connect people on a deeper level to the natural world. This show has brought together painters and photographers from different "waters" and backgrounds and we hope to inspire action and promote environmental stewardship ...send waves of hope!

Your UNESCO OCEAN DECADE TIDES OF CHANGE WAVES OF HOPE ART SHOW art is held in empty store fronts for the public to see. Does the general public react and respond to your art work on exhibit?

Yes, the ocean themed works of twenty-six international artist, including my photo series Aqua Vitae, will be exhibited at Fulton Center, a high-traffic area in downtown Manhattan. While some people will surely just pass by, my hope is of course that others will stop for a moment of contemplation, drawn by the urgency of the matter.

AQUA VITAE – BOSHPHORUS by Annette Solakoglu

Where is the UNESCO OCEAN DECADE TIDES OF CHANGE WAVES OF HOPE ART SHOW taking place and for how long?

UNESCO's Ocean Advocacy art show is taking place in the heart of the Financial District in New York City, at Fulton Center and at outdoor panels at the Oculus. It runs for three months, from April1 to July 7, 2024.

Do you have any other ocean or environmental themed art shows planned for this year especially during Climate Week New York that takes place from September 22-30 while the United Nations General Assembly meetings are held in New York?

Yes, this summer my work will be part of a group exhibit titled PINK & BLUE, curated by painter and climate activist Selva Ozelli. The show will run parallel to Climate Week NYC, and takes place at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, New York, from August 10 through September 29, 2024.

I have also embarked on a new project, the flora of Istanbul, focusing on native species.

How can people reach you?

I can be contacted via my website at annettesolakoglu.com or via message on Instagram @annettelouise.solakoglu.


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