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The Neighborhood Photographer - Charlotte Schmitz, Visura

7 years ago

Visura member Charlotte Schmitz grew up in a Danish minority near Flensburg. After an exchange year in Ecuador, she graduated from a danish secondary school and in 2011 she studied photojournalism and documentary photography at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover. Charlotte is living and working in Istanbul.


Hi Charlotte, thanks for talking to us. Firstly, why photography?

I ran into a small photo store in Cairo, which was filled to the ceiling with cameras and bought an Olympic OM-1. I remember the photometer wasn’t working. I started taking pictures of everything, from macro photography of flowers to black and white industrial photography, very much inspired by the Bechers.

Shortly after that I moved to Paris, and began taking less pictures of objects and more of people. I was surrounded by great photo exhibitions and creative friends at the time. I quickly decided to give up my plan of studying politics and pursued photography. I began studying photojournalism and documentary photography 2011 in Hanover, Germany. I love how photography takes me to many places around the world and gives me the opportunity to enter different worlds and lives.


Tell us about your series ‘çok güzelim, çok güzel

‘Çok güzelim, çok güzel’ are the lyrics of a Turkish-Roma song, which is widely played in Balat. It means “I am so beautiful, so beautiful”. Balat is an old neighborhood located in the very center of Istanbul. Traditional Turkish, Kurdish and Roma families live there, a district with conservative and patriarchal structures. I moved here two years ago. While walking through the streets, I was wondering how life would look like inside the houses, behind the curtains. As everyone knows each other, I quickly made friends and began discovering the interior space of the district, which means the space of the women. I wasn’t planning to just take pictures of them, but as men spend very little time at home during the day, I focused on the women – their daily lives, celebrations and traditions.

They create a fabulous dream world, full of aspiration and beauty. Life is all about finding a partner, marriage and children. Weddings and celebrations are occasions for the girls to showcase and even display themselves, and escape from their monotonous life, which consists of household, family and children.


Whenever I visit my friends, I have my camera with me and take pictures. Those visits, typical for Turkey, are always long hours, with a lot of food, tee, cigarettes and dancing. Some friends would describe me, besides being their friend from Germany, as “our neighborhood photographer”. After weddings or other big celebrations I spent hours on Facebook sending pictures to everyone.

After two more years living in Balat, I will be moving out of my house at the end of September and plan to turn the four floors into an exhibition. Many friends from Balat will come, as well as friends from the more modern districts of Istanbul. I am looking forward having them all as guests in my house, with food, drinks and music, and to bring people together who normally live in different worlds.

How did growing up in Flensburg, Denmark affect your photography and visual studies?

I think growing up in a Danish Minority in north of Germany affected mostly my curiosity to dive into different cultures, lives and languages. I was always surprised when people asked me if I feel more German or Danish. I didn’t understand why that would be so important. Surely I have my roots there and I am very happy that I grew up in between those two countries, but I love playing around with my identity as well. I very quickly feel a belonging to the place I chose to live, like Ecuador, Paris, Berlin and now Istanbul.



Where in the world are you and what's next for you?

I'm currently sitting in my house in Balat, looking at the Golden Horn, drinking çay. I am moving out from my house soon and will leave Istanbul for some months. I will travel to Ecuador to work on my final project for the university and then go on a journey for 6 weeks with my father. We will drive by motorbike through South America. We haven’t been on vacation together for 15 years and in between we didn’t have contact for a while, so it will be adventurous in many ways. And then at the beginning of next year, I will come back to the big city.