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Murat Germen: The New Turkey

Validating cultural identity through contemporary art.

July 5, 2014

Detail of "Reconstruct #01," by Turkish artist Murat Germen

Before concentrating on urban and industrial photography as his primary and artistic preoccupation, Murat Germen studied city planning and architecture in Turkey and the United States.

From 1988 to 1992, he completed postgraduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked as an architect in Tucson, Arizona, for a year.

  Enlarge | Muta Morphosis No. 83 by Murat Germen, 2011

Germen’s formal studies served as the catalyst to reflect more broadly about the social, cultural and creative impact of architecture and the development of cities in society.

Urban landscapes and architectural structures — primarily from Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir — have dominated his work over the past decade. He has interpreted single buildings, construction sites or cityscapes in their aesthetic expression.

At the same time, he portrays the development of a city surrounded by rural and natural landscapes and vibrating with cultural and social reality. He combines experimental photography with the tradition of documentary photography.

The development of an artist

Germen is grateful for his education in city planning and architecture, because they changed the way he looks at things around him. Photography was a natural bridge for him, as it is an indispensable tool for both city planning and architecture.

  Enlarge | Muta Morphosis No. 121 by Murat Germen, 2012

He decided to focus exclusively on photography out of the belief that it is one of the most democratic art forms: “Life is rough and short, happy and motivated moments are not very frequent; this is why I decided to put my most joyful activity into the center of my life.”

The “New Turkey”

Germen’s work portrays the landscape of the New Turkey by documenting the cause-and-effect relationships of cultural, economic and social factors. Therefore, factories, construction sites and refineries symbolize economic dynamics, which in turn have social and cultural effects.

  Enlarge | Facsimile Istanbul 1 by Murat Germen, 2012

Cultural identity — despite global forces in art — remains an important factor in contemporary art.

Even in the presence of rapid communications and cross-cultural exchanges, local phenomena define a culture and help us see more deeply within and beyond the dynamism of a rapidly changing culture like Turkey’s. Murat Germen’s photography interprets this dynamic culture.

In contemporary Istanbul, Germen deciphers what stands before his eyes in the present tense. The bridge between East and West and a point of interest for centuries, Istanbul offers Germen a wealth of localities that he interprets with a fresh eye.

  Enlarge | Reconstruct #01 by Murat Germen

His work is real down to every local detail but also presents a whole that encompasses the depth and breadth of the city.

Editor’s note: This essay is adapted from Yeni Türkiye, New Turkey, by Murat Germen, with essays by Necmi Sönmez, Murathan Mungan and Barbara Hofmann-Johnson, edited by Necmi Sönmez (MASA, 2013).

All works of art are reproduced with the consent of the artist.


Photography is an indispensable tool for both city planning and architecture.

"Life is rough and short, so I decided to put my most joyful activity into the center of my life."

Germen's work portrays the landscape of the New Turkey through cultural, economic and social factors.

Murat Germen's photography interprets Turkey's dynamic culture.