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Mike Mandel & Chantal Zakari: The State of Ata: The Contested Imagery of Power in Turkey Hardcover – April 30, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
In what is perhaps the most powerful section of the book, Zakari became the subject of a national debate when, finding herself on the sidelines of an Islamicist protest march against the state's secularist policies, she held up a small framed image of Ataturk. She was instantly hailed as a hero in the Kemalist press ("the girl of the Republic") and condemned as an agent of a larger Jewish and/or CIA conspiracy in Islamist outlets. The modesty of her original gesture, as well as her stated intentions in subsequent interviews hardly mattered at all. Both were quickly co-opted into larger opposing narratives in this bifurcated society.
Through its lush illustrations and penetrating interviews, The State of Ata brings contemporary Turkey to life like no other book I know. It is substantial enough to merit careful scrutiny from serious observers of the region, as well as those interested in the larger issues of iconography and myth formation. It is gorgeous enough to merit pride of place on the coffee table. I highly recommend it.
The images tell the story of what Turkey has always been since the modern republic was founded: a place where the old and the new, the liberal and conservative strangely exist side by side, quite comfortably. A place where trends come and go, but the undying love instilled in the icon, the father of the republic endures almost blindly.
In addition, personal stories by Chantal Zakari informs us of another obscure fact; the coexistence of minorities in the mix of a tolerant muslim culture, practiced since the glory days of the Ottoman empire.
Finally what I liked most about the book is the presentation of differing, unpopular opinions that add balance to the discussion.
This is one book I can keep in my library that will serve as both a guide and a reminder of the complex world I call "the motherland".
Although his tenure as a Turkish leader spanned a mere 15 years, he is still controlling the fate of contemporary Turkey, and it is doing so essentially through the imagery of him-photographs, paintings, sculpture, cartoons and tapestries-rather than his actual influence. How is it that the imagery of the man who became known as Ataturk still permeates every aspect of Turkish culture some 70 years after the death of this unique leader? Even today, his images are omnipresent throughout the country, in every city and town, every building public and private, and in the daily lives and the minds of the Turkish people.
It is the search for the sources of the influence, power and meaning of the imagery of Ataturk which has led the artists--American photographer Mike Mandel and his Turkish-born wife Chantal Zakari-on a decades long adventure culminating in a rich and exciting tapestry of a book, full of extraordinary images and widely diverse, strongly held, opinions. They have produced a fascinating exploration of the history of The State of Ata from the time of the Ottomans until today.
This journey, which began as a project in 1997, is taken by two people whose experience of Turkey is entirely different.Read more ›
Mike Mandel's photos provide a gripping window into Turkey's daily life. I am engrossed in the details and textures of these images, particularly when his commentary gives some insight into the experience of photographing strangers in an foreign setting. Occasional pixelated, low-res images from Zakari's camera phone or video camera give jittery, informal peeks at the same scenes through the eyes of someone far more familiar with the setting. Images juxtaposed create imaginary spaces, a wordless commentary on the fraught relationship between photographer and subject. Reading, I found myself confronted with the need to reflect on my own position as a viewer and interpreter of these hyperreal, yet (at least for me) foreign, images. Mandel's repeated use of the phrase "to make a picture" (rather than the more familiar "to take...") makes it hard to forget that each image has its own backstory of conversations, negotiations, questions, and logistics.
This backstory unexpectedly becomes the center of the action when Mandel and Zakari create a staged photo at a protest march. A photo project that begins as "a small intervention" catapults Zakari to nationwide importance, making her image a focus for the political ambitious and moral preferences of a host of observers.Read more ›