[Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research] Turkey: Blind photographer

fnugg at online.no fnugg at online.no
Mon Oct 11 15:39:06 UTC 2010

Blind photographer: ‘The photographs I want to see the most are the ones 
of my son’

"Civan İlici
If I asked, “Can a blind person take a photograph?” I am sure many would 
say “no.” I used to think the same way until I met Cıvan İlici, Turkey’s 
first blind photographer.

İlici, who first picked up a camera as part of the Blind Photographers 
Project in 2007, has been taking pictures of beautiful images that he 
can’t see ever since. He photographs of all kinds of subjects, including 
the sky, the sea, a young girl selling flowers and trees. But the images 
he most desires to see the most are those of his son, Ege Arda. “If I 
could, I would want to see my son’s face and the books that I have 
read,” he said. Nowadays İlici is waiting for his exhibition, titled “I 
am looking at İstanbul with my eyes closed,” to open at the 
soon-to-be-established Museum of the Blind.
It would be an injustice to only mention İlici’s skills as a 
photographer because he also has countless other talents. He graduated 
from Boğaziçi University’s psychology department and is currently a 
researcher at the same department. He is also a cultural psychologist 
who provides opportunities for visually impaired people in Turkey to 
learn how to use computer technologies and he conducts psychological 
analyses of obstacles the visually impaired face. During my interview 
with İlici, Turkey’s first blind photographer, I felt a little 
uncomfortable using the world “blind.” But in a cool, calm and happy 
manner he told me to relax and said the word doesn’t really signify 

First pictures were of garbage bins

Nuri Kaya, the director of the Blind Photographers Project, approached 
İlici in 2007 and asked him to take some photographs. Explaining why the 
first thing he decided to photograph was a garbage bin, İlici said: “As 
a person who can’t see, I used to wait a long time before I could cross 
the street. And while I waited, the smell from the garbage bin would 
accompany me. Just like how people avoid garbage bins because they 
smell, they try to avoid us because we are blind. Garbage bins 
relentlessly wait in the same place without complaining. So do we. There 
is something mystical about waiting. Waiting is meaningful.”

This is how İlici’s journey in photography began. After taking some 
photography lessons at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, he took a big 
step towards realizing a life-long dream. İlici had been writing poetry 
from a young age and had always been interested in literature and art. 
“There were many things inside of me that I wanted to express. But words 
were not enough for me to express them. I started contemplating whether 
there were others way in which I could express myself. Then Kaya came to 
me with this project. I decided I could express myself much better 
through photographs,” he said.

Noting that his perspective on life, literature, poetry and art changed 
once he started taking photographs, İlici said he believes a photograph 
is a visual art that represents the unseen parts of an iceberg and that 
photographs are comprised of imagination and ideas.

The ability to see imprisons people

Making the comment that he feels sorry for people who can see, İlici 
said ability to see imprisons people in a world of concrete images, 
materialism and light. “The ability to see is a large prison in which 
people are kept captive. Because they are imprisoned its very difficult 
for them to understand life, to appreciate what God has given them, to 
appreciate their abilities and to understand what they can do.”

He explained that he has often been asked whether he would want to be 
able to see and what he would want to see. But he only took the question 
seriously when his 7-year-old son Ege Arda asked it. His response to his 
son was truly meaningful and moving. İlici tearfully said what he wants 
to see the most is his son’s face and the books that he has read or 
wants to read. Aside from these two things, he said would also like to 
see the photographs he has taken. But İlici does not hold on to the 
photographs he takes. “A photographer who can see can touch, view and 
keep his photographs. But mine slip through my hands and it makes me 
feel like I have lost a child,” he says as the words get stuck in his 

I am looking at İstanbul with my eyes closed

The Blind Photographers Project is expected to evolve into an exhibition 
that will be displayed in the Museum of the Blind, to be established 
sometime in the next few years. While speaking of the museum, it is 
evident that this is a very exciting project for İlici. Photographs on 
exhibit will constitute images of İstanbul taken by 100 people who are 
totally blind. The exhibition will be titled “I am looking at İstanbul 
with my eyes closed” and around 200 academics and journalists -- 
including İskender Pala, Ali Ural, Adalet Ağaoğlu, Ece Temel Kuran, 
Sunay Akın -- are expected to write about the photographs. The 
photographs and the texts will be placed side by side. The texts will be 
in Braille to provide two different methods of seeing. While those who 
can see the photographs will most likely not be able to read the text, 
those who can read the text will most likely not be able to see the 
photograph. The exhibition will highlight themes of blindness, life, 
art, city perceptions and methods of seeing."


More information about the Art_Beyond_Sight_Theory_and_Research mailing list