From a Vernacular Photograph to an Icon: The Spirited Face of Gezi Park Resistance.

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During spring 2013, an important uprising had broken out and marked a historic period for political activism in Turkish memory. Focusing on the afterlives of photographic portraits produced during this “Occupy Gezi Movement”, the paper considers iconized digital portraitures as a peculiar genre of vernacular photography and focuses on its visual language, and cultural codes as a part of the underground resisting culture in daily life. It explores different contexts in which photographic portraits have been used as a tool of protest and their various kinds of remediation from the Gezi Park Protest onwards. Private portraits as an agent of resistance have been creatively modified, recreated, rematerialized and circulated in distinct ways during and after the protest: from city walls as stencils, stickers, and graffiti (in actual public spaces) to Facebook profile walls as online digital re-mastering (virtual spheres). This article concentrates on aesthetics of such iconized digital photographic portraitures in contemporary Turkey. It particularly focuses on one of the instances that have labeled the Occupy Gezi Movement: the death of Berkin Elvan, who turned 15 while in a coma who has been struck in the head by a tear gas canister, fired by police, while on his way to buy bread. This case has been a catalyst for further demonstrations against Turkey‟s ruling party and turned Elvan‟s high-spirited face and dark eyebrows, to one of the strong symbols of the resistance. The teenage boy‟s injury during the protests, his birthday while he was in a coma at the hospital, his
death, funeral and commemorations have been stress points in which his photographic portrait have been modified and redesigned according to the occasion and circulated widely. The image of the youth symbol of the struggle and the different kinds of cultural work his photograph have performed is the main focus of this research. The digital social afterlives of Elvan‟s iconized imagery as illustrations and drawings; as stencils and graffiti at streets; as posters and framed photographs in political performances carried around in public spaces and commemorative acts;
and as digital data circulated in social media both consisting of indexical and iconic elements regarding their photographic features. This transformation of the single analog vernacular photograph of Elvan to various digital versions and continuous re-interpretation and re-materialization is discussed depending on the local history of the occasion and the critical literature on photographic history and theories of photographic vernacularity. This research makes use of data collecting methods that netnographic research methodology uses. The paper focuses on the ways local vernacularity is historically produced and evolved in this particular time of Gezi Park Resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134,146
Number of pages13
JournalJournalism and Mass Communication
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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