Tribute to Sabit Kalfagil
Having become one of the milestones of Turkish photography since 1970s, Sabit Kalfagil has also been a rare individual to be dubbed "Teacher of Teachers" due to his tutorship of many photography instructors over the years. It can even be said that his tutorship may have exceeded his art, so much so that the methods he employed in his instructions has become standards in photography education in Turkey.
With his identity as photographer being built on the diligence and technical command of architecture, he has become of the leading educators with his supreme knowledge of technical possibilities of the camera, as well as his masterful use of the device. In the entirety of his photographic production, perfection in the command and diligence can be gleaned. Whether it's the books he's written, the shot he has taken or the lectures he's given, he's been a staunch defender and a practitioner of the Modernist-Positivist tradition and its paradigm. In the preface of his album, İstanbul-2, he summarises of his approach as follows.
"I believe that everything in the universe has taken shape in accordance with a function. What we finally see as form is the result of a functionality. The modernist perspective embraces functionality and rationalism. From the very beginning, the photograph is endowed with a documentary function. I have been taking photographs for over half a century. I have never named any of my works. I’ve never written dates or place on them. Maybe at first. I didn’t feel the need for that. Now, I no longer remember the dates or even the places of some of my photographs. So when my old photographs are about to be published in a book, when i am asked fort he date of the photograph or my recollections, i have a reaction. I guess there is an explanation for such an attitude in a person who prioritizes the function of the photograph."
Despite being tightly bound to classical and didactic rules of aesthetics and optics, Kalfagil's photography occasionally reaches an abstract aesthetic. Having made his mark on Turkish photography with his approach to light and composition, he occupied an enormously important place in our history of photography and his remaining in our agenda demonstrates his success.
Fotoistanbul pays its respects to late Sabit Kalfagil, whom we've lost earlier this year, by showing a selection of works which have been rarely seen before.
Born in Elazığ in 1934, Kalfagil graduated from Konya High School and later, from İstanbul Technical University Faculty of Architecture. He took office at İstanbul Municipality in 1963 and until 1988, he worked in İstanbul Directorate of Development, Mayoral Consultancy, and as Fatih Municipality Deputy Mayor.
Kalfagil started out in photography in 1960. Initially, he set out to bear witness to the people, nature and culture of Anatolia through documentation of architectural and archaeological works. He conducted many trips into Anatolia and his works from these trips have been awarded and displayed in various solo and group exhibitions of national and international scale.
The artist served in the jury of many photography competitions, as well as opening and participating in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Having organised numerous photography shows, he also displayed them to domestic and foreign events. Many of his works have been published in the publications and posters of the Ministry of Tourism. Kalfagil also participated in national and international symposiums and published numerous papers.
In 1978, Kalfagil became a founding member of the Institute of Photography at the State Academy of Fine Arts. In 1988, he completed his postgraduate degree with the thesis, titled "Turkish Architectural Works Through Photography" and in 1989, he was promoted to the post of associate professor. He served as the Chair of the Department of Documentary Photography at Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts. In 1998, he was appointed as professor at Marmara University Faculty of Fine Arts Department of Photography. Between 1998 and 2001, he served as the chairperson of the same department.
Having immensely contributed to Turkish photography with his texts, Sabit Kalfagil has published articles in Yeni Fotoğraf (New Photography) between 1977 and 1981, in REFO in 1990 and until recently, in Fotoğraf Dergisi. Alongside these contributions, Kalfagil has published numerous photography books and albums.
In 2012, Kalfagil was awarded the Culture and Arts Grand Prize by the Ministry of Culture due to his contributions to Turkish photography. Kalfagil has passed away in 2017.