RESIST LAUGHTER - COMING SOON

Exhibiting at Special Group Studios in Sydney until 17 May, part of Head On Photography Festival. Opening Night: Thursday 11 May @ 6pm.

“It’s very sad that a person fears her safety, just because she supports basic human rights. In this atmosphere, fighting for women’s rights is a luxury for many people,” Gizem, 2016.

A tweet took me to Turkey initially - an image of young women laughing in the street and the Turkish words #derinkahkaha (resist laughter). The post was one of thousands shared by Turkish women to protest comments by the country’s then Deputy Prime Minister who said women should not laugh in public. The post found me, 16,000 kms away.

Tentatively calling myself a feminist for the first time, I wanted to learn more about these women and hoped to connect with them; digital natives taking to virtual streets connecting with an international women’s movement. I first visited in Turkey 2015. Many I interviewed and photographed identified with the word feminist. Some rejected the label and the movement as Western, preferring that their actions alone define them. As a group, they were unified in their outrage about skyrocketing numbers of murdered women - 1400% increase between 2003 and 2010 - but on every other issue they were divided: motherhood, politics, sexuality, tradition and religion.

Returning in 2016, I found a movement being rapidly reshaped by the intensity of current events in Turkey - multiple terrorist attacks, an increasingly conservative, authoritarian, yet popular Government, a failed military coup followed by a state of emergency. Amidst widespread arrests of those who oppose and criticise the Government, I was met not with defiance, but with a creeping sense of defeat amongst some of those I spent time with. Self-preservation had become, naturally, more of a priority than the cause.

In its entirety, combining photographs with interviews and text, Resist Laughter reveals a series of starting points without resolution, embracing the complexities and contradictions faced by women, queer and non-binary individuals fighting patriarchy in Turkey. It also considers the influence of conservatism on everyday experiences of women - on the street, in families, at home, in relationships - as told to me from those fighting for equality.