The Girl's Got Soul

It is an honor to exhibit a series of portraits and video of Gonca Akbaba.   A fresh perspective, multi talented artist with a focus on fashion, portrait and documentary work.  Gonca’s brings a taste of very real people, in very real settings, capturing a very real world. Her subjects leap off the screen in a raw, gritty, way.  Just beautiful photography.  In an era of Facetune run amok, overfilled lips, cheeks and over processed everything, Gonca’s perspective is incredibly refreshing (and just as interesting in major cities or remote countrysides).  Basically Beautiful is thrilled to feature a series of Gonca’s impressive work and are grateful she took the time to answer our questions below.  Thank you Gonca (and move to New York already!)  Gonca currently resides in Amsterdam… 

BB: Tell us about your background.  Where are you from, where did you study?
Gonca: My name is Gonca Akbaba, 26 years and born in the Netherlands.  I decided to study photography in Antwerp (Belgium), because I had a great feeling at this school.  I graduated in 2018 and really happy with it.

BB: Was there a defining moment when you knew you were going to be a photographer?
Gonca: The funny thing is that I never had the feeling to be a photographer.  When I was 21 I was planning to go to the art school.  I loved making sketches and paintings.  But after visiting the school in Antwerp my intuition said ‘this is it!’.  So I just took a risk and went to the photography school and I am really happy with the decision I made.

BB: Is your photography/videography your full time job?
Gonca: Yes, but now I am planning to work on my own projects.  To do things what makes me really happy and gives me a satisfied feeling.  I want to have my own style, so people can recognize my work.  To be continued…

BB: We love your eye, subjects and composition.  Are these sensibilities natural or something you were taught in school?
Gonca: Thank you!  I think it is something what you learn by yourself and what you have naturally by practicing.  In school you do learn a few things, but in real life you are challenging yourself.  And the best way to learn is to practice and learn from other photographers.

BB: Why is it 2 people can take a picture of the same thing, but both pictures look and feel entirely different?
Gonca: Their vision, idea, what they see at the moment is different.  When you ask two painters to paint a sunflower they will do it both really different because they have their own approach to the subject and own fantasy.

BB: Do you remember your first camera and first photo?
Gonca: The first camera I bought was a Nikon D5300, this was great to use for my school projects.  When I was a kid I used the camera of my parents I think it was an analog of fujifilm.  Can’t remember the first picture I made, but I remember one I made for a school assignment.  It was of a young guy I asked him to take a portrait of him, it was a black and white picture.  His look was so good, it took only a minute to take the picture and my teachers loved it.

BB: Fashion, portraits, documentary work …. Do you have a favorite?
Gonca: Oeh, that’s hard to choose.  Because I want to develop myself more and more in photography (general).  Sometimes I do like to take food pictures and do the styling.  Documentary can be something emotional and that’s something I would like to develop in my work.  But fashion and portrait is the photography I have the most in common with.

BB: Photography / videography… Do you have a preference?
Gonca: Haha, these questions are not easy.  Photography is an image you make of a moment, the viewer can make an own story with it.  But a video is something more, the way how you edit a video how you take the shots is much more creative I think.  When someone looks at your video, does hear every sound and can feel the moment where you were in.  For now I don’t have a preference, but video can be more special than a picture.

BB: How does your approach differ when taking a photo versus shooting video?
Gonca: The difference of shooting a video takes much more time.  So you should be more prepared for filming and editing instead of taking pictures and edit some.  But it depends on the project of course.  Because a photoshoot can take a lot of time and preparing as well.

BB: Your photos of the Turkey countryside and it’s people are striking.  Are these people and places you know personally?
Gonca: My origin is Turkish.  This was my first trip I wanted to travel in Turkey by my own.  I always went with my family but this time I wanted to explore where my roots are really from.  So all the people I met while travelling I never met before.  It felt like I knew them for a really long time, because they were so hospitable and they took care of me.  It made me emotional in a good way to know that the people where I am from were so great and accepted me as who I am.

BB: The videos on your website are awesome.  What’s the story?
Gonca: Thank you so much.  Mostly I have an image or an idea in my mind and try to have a result what I had in my mind.  It just pops up in my mind and it depends on the mood or inspiration what I have at the moment.

BB: Where do you get your inspiration?
Gonca: Watching videos, movies or pictures in some of my photo-books or the internet.  I have a weakness for movies and it inspires me a lot.  Instagram to explore photographers I have never heard of.  But mostly making mood boards on pinterest to inspire myself.

BB: We love your videos and liked knowing you also did the editing.  How important is the editing to the final product?
Gonca: I think the editing is more important than filming.  I mean filming is really important but the way how creative you can be by editing and to create your own video is so much more.

BB: If a video is 1 minute long, how many minutes of footage would you typically need to shoot to yield enough for the 1 minute final piece?
Gonca: It depends on the subject.  Mostly I sketch some scenes what I really want in my video so it will take less time filming.  I think it can be 30-60 minutes, if you use a lot of different shots.  I always film some extra shots to be sure that I will not regret not shooting it.

BB: And what percentage of the video process is spent in planning?  In filming?  In editing?
Gonca: I spent a lot of time editing because I am too critical and it has to be perfect.  It can never be perfect and when I watch my videos of 2 years ago a see some mistakes.  But you learn from it of course.  So let’s say preparing (sketching shots and have a story) it can take some hours, days weeks.  It depends on the idea and subject.  The video I made in NYC took for filming I think in total 1 or 2 days, maybe more.  Because I want to have a band with the people, by chatting with some coffee and walk a bit.  The idea of making the video didn’t took that long.  But the editing took a loooong time.  I edit a few days but not editing the whole day.  Maybe 2 hours a day.  But I am still happy with the result, so it was worth it.  This should be the percentage of the way how I work: 20% planning, having an idea, 35% filming, 45% editing.

BB: How do you find your subjects?  On average, how many photos do you typically take of a person before you are fully satisfied?
Gonca: When it is for an assignment, you do have a particular subject for it.  But for my own projects I find my inspiration of something I saw that day or before.  The work of a photographer inspires me too.  I try to figure out what kind of concept and image I want to have.  Being fully satisfied is not an opportunity for me I guess.  If you want to develop yourself you are not able to be satisfied, because it can always be better.  But that’s a positive thing.  When I shoot with a model, I do take a lot of pictures but I don’t like to shoot for hours.  If I have the feeling that I have the shot, than the photoshoot will finish soon.

BB: We discovered your work (on Instagram) by a street style photo you took of Aimee Song.  There are hundreds of awesome pictures of aimee but yours was the best we’d ever seen.  You captured her energy, beauty and spirit.  Was that luck or total skill?!
Gonca: It was a moment.  So I think luck and skill, it was crazy busy and there are a lot of photographers.  So it is not easy to have ‘the right picture’.

BB: Has Instagram helped build your business?
Gonca: Some of it, yes.  But I am not really good with social media, so maybe should post more.

BB: What’s your best advice for people having their picture taken?  Do you like having your picture taken?
Gonca: Follow your own path and challenge yourself.  I prefer to take pictures of others, but when I am in the mood I do like when others do take pictures of me.  But it is mostly private, with family or friends.

BB: What makes someone photogenic?
Gonca: I prefer someone who looks different or has a charisma.  I don’t think when someone is beautiful does look good on a picture.  It is just a feeling what you have with a person.

BB: Do you spend much time in post production?  How do you feel about photoshop?  Is it necessary in most editorial work?
Gonca: It depends on the job what you have.  If it is a portrait I do finetune it, but for a full outfit look it doesn’t take that much time.  Depends on how good the setting was.  I don’t like photoshop that much, so I try to do some basic edit but I like pictures more natural.

BB: Clearly you are multi talented.  Did you get it from your parents?
Gonca: Thank youuu!  I wish hehe.  My parents always supported me so that’s a big thing.  I was always interested in art and watching movies.  So that gave me creative thinking I guess.  When going to the highschool I followed classes of art and I loved it.

BB: Are you parents proud of you?
Gonca: They are and they say it often.  It makes me really happy and means a lot.  I love them!

BB: Has your style changed over the years?  If yes, how so?
Gonca: I don’t think I do have a specific style.  I really want one but it takes some time to find what your style is.  I think it is years of practicing to find what your style is, so let’s see:)

BB: Favorite camera?  Favorite video camera?
Gonca: My camera what I use for my shoots is the Nikon D800 and I do use this one for my videos as well.  I love it, because I am so used to it.  But last couple of months I try to work more with analog cameras.  I have a few, like Minolta, Pentax etc.

BB: If you could have one super power…?
Gonca: I would like to have a superpower to choose more superpowers haha.  I think flying, the freedom while you see the world should be an amazing feeling I guess.

BB: What’s the most interesting thing that’s ever happened on a shoot?
Gonca: The most amazing thing what happened was when I saw MOS DEF during Paris Fashion Week.  I was for a moment in shock and I couldn’t believe it.
The other interesting thing is that me and my colleague had and interview with Nina Kraviz at a festival in Belgium. I took quickly some pictures of her and my colleague was going to interview her. But she had to catch a flight so we went in the cab to interview her quickly before approaching the exit of the festival. But the vibe was so great that we went to the airport with her and interviewed her for 1-2 hours. So we were pretty far from the festival and we had to get back. We had some coffee and cake at the airport and took the train back. We were absolutely tired but it was the ride of our life haha.

BB: What living photographer would you most like to meet in the world?
Gonca: I can’t choose between them:
Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, Vivianne Sassen,​ ​Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin and many more…

BB: What’s you dream assignment?
Gonca: I do want a lot.  But I would love to shoot the cover of the magazine Dazed&Confused, I-D magazine etc.

BB: Any good photography jokes?
Gonca: Is there any?  I would like to know haha

BB: What piece of your work best represents you or the one you are most proud of?
Gonca: I think still my final project of school.  Having an own idea and graduating in such a nice way is a great feeling.  The way how the model looks and the setting is something which I am really proud of.

BB: What is your philosophy in life?
Gonca: You are your own director of your life.
If you have the ability to choose and develop yourself, you should approach things the way how you want.  You should not give up and choose your own path.

BB: What would you most like us to know about you?
My dream is to have my own expositions in different cities, hopefully one day in NYC.  I am planning to work on my own projects to develop myself, my work and achieve more.  I always want to try something different and new, because I don’t like to do the same thing over and over.

BB: If someone is interested in your work or hiring you for an assignment, how can they reach you?
Gonca: By sending me an email at[email protected].

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