Things don't always go according to plan. Sometimes where we think we're headed might be very different from where we end up. But it's often that these paths lead us to discover a place where our imagination can flourish. Such is true of Haluk Baysal, a digital artist who's intention was never to become Photographer.
Yet his insatiable passion for his craft has driven him to pursue a career which has not only achieved him status as an award-winning Photographer, but also got him internationally recognized for his versatility, his creativity, and his ability to tell a story through imagery.
We caught up with Haluk to find out more about his work, how he never planned to be a photographer, and what he thinks it takes to be a great Photographer...
Whats your full name and where are you based?
First of all thank you for interviewing me. I am Haluk Baysal. I live and work as a freelance photographer/filmmaker in Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in a small Mediterranean town called Kusadasi where I happily played basketball in winters and enjoyed beach & sun in summers. Past 4 years I've been studying, working, and travelling around the world. Eventually, a year ago, I graduated from Koc University with a Bachelor's degree in Media and Visual Arts & Philosophy. Besides photography and filmmaking, I have been running an online art platform called Minus 37 which is kind of an online magazine dedicated to feature emerging artists.
Photography by Haluk Baysal
When & How did you get in to Photography?
I actually had no intention and interest to be a photographer. I was pretty sure that I was either going to be a sportsman or writer however none of them happened for various reasons. Back home, kids are usually not well informed about professions and real life plus we have an insanely tough university examination system. Luckily, I did a very good score in that exam and got to choose from best schools. I started to study International Relations and Economics with full scholarship in Koc University just because not to 'waste' my exam results. Meanwhile, I was going to another independent filmmaking school and soon I understood I had to change my major as well. It was quite challenging to change from Economics to Visual Arts since faculty asked straight A's but I managed somehow. Then I focused mainly on filmmaking still no interest in photography. One day my ex-girlfriend (who was a full time model) and I gathered a small team and did a photoshoot. I randomly sent it to a photo competition and won it. They have sent me some money and prizes which made me think 'oh that was easy'. Thinking that way I made my first mistake. Some days after that a friend of mine asked me if I knew a photographer that could shoot a lookbook for their clothing company and I said 'hell yeah man I can do it' although I had no idea what lookbook meant. I watched some Youtube tutorials and did the shoot. After that, I thought that's a perfect way to travel and work since I could bring my camera anywhere. My second mistake, I was very naive and inexperienced apparently. So it has been around 5 years since I started photography and only 2 months ago I became a full time photographer/filmmaker and have my own studio space.
Describe your style of Photography?
It is hard to answer - I am still very young and need to shoot more and more yet I think I need to take my personal projects into consideration while explaining my style. I am very perfectionist and geometry always played important role in my life so I believe you can see it in my compositions. One of my defining projects, Gardens of Heaven (image below), is very surreal and dreamy. I also try to add some humour in some of my frames for example in Mortals. So to sum up, I like to create surreal and dreamy photographs with possibly some humour in them with thought out geometric compositions. I have been working very commercially lately and for my online projects thus I couldn't find much space for creativity.
From 'Garden's of Heaven' by Haluk Baysal
Who/What are you influences?
I have greatly moved by women I have loved and authors I read in high school. To name some (Authors) Camus, Dostoyevski, Kundera, Garcia Marquez are my favourites. Additionally, after I started to curate for Minus 37, I have explored tones of amazing artists and been impressed by their work.
What equipment are you using and why?
I have Canon 5D Mark III as my main camera and Canon 5D Mark II as my second shooter. I started with Mark III because of its video capability and I don't see a reason to change my kit and habits at the moment. I have 24-105mm f/4, 50mm f/1.4, 70-200mm f/2.8 and really would like to get 85mm f/1.2 sometime soon. I love using different type of diffusers, they are so handy and create amazing results. For camera flash, I use 430 ex ii. and studio I have an Elinchrome d-lite rx 4 set. I have some filters but am not really using them unless I am shooting long exposure. Since I do video, I have some different equipment for it like rigs, stabilisers, dolly. I also like to shoot underwater so I have an aquatech underwater housing for mk2. Lastly, my recent passion is aerial imagery, I just got a Phantom 4 drone and it is very fun to shoot with it.
What are you using to edit your images?
I use Adobe products for editing. Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere.
Photography by Haluk Baysal
Tell us about the type of clients you work for, and how you work with them to achieve their brief?
It really depends, I mostly work with companies in fashion industry and for individuals who contact me via social media. I always try my best to create the best possible results. I study the brief a couple of times, do research/refresh my knowledge, and try to come up with creative ideas. Lately, I always ended up with last minute bookings so I didn't really know what was going to happen until I arrive to the set.
Describe your process of working with the models in your images, and any team (Stylist, Makeup, Client) behind the images.
This really depends as well. People in Sydney are usually very easy going, so process is very smooth here. Sometimes clients don't pay for a long time and it is very annoying of course. For models, if we are shooting for their portfolio, I ask them to show me similar images and their expectations from the shoot. If it is my own project, I know everything before and just try to translate to them my vision.
Photography by Haluk Baysal
What are you currently working on?
I am actually working on so many projects at the same time which I don't suggest to anyone. I've been working on a side project which is going to be an international art competition platform but unfortunately I had to stop working with the developer team so it’s a bit postponed right now. Other than that, I am working on the post-production of a short movie. Besides, I always have different gigs that I have to work on as a freelance artist. I also need to lead the publishing for Minus 37 and lately I have been quite unsuccessful with that due to heavy work load.
What's been your biggest win/achievement?
I reckon my biggest achievement is my biggest failure at the same time. When I was 21, 3 years ago, I was able to produce/direct a short film called Water Touch from a scratch with a very talented crew of 25-30 people. It was very important for me because it was a very personal project and to see all the people joining me through it was dramatic. Sadly, I have spent so much time in post-production and never felt it was finished due to my obsessed personality. However I plan to finish it as soon as possible. Additionally, I have done a photo documentary project called Unknown No:77 with Ezidi people who ran away from ISIS brutality in Syria. This project has been awarded internationally and got some publicity. Awards are not really important because you can get them in many ways but idea of being a voice for people was very relieving. Unfortunately, the situation over there just got worse.
From 'Unknown No:77' by Haluk Baysal
What is your philosophy on how to shoot great images?
Nowadays, everything is so commercialized that we’re all measured by likes and popularity. My honest opinion about great images is all about feelings. When I see our family photograph that was taken 15 years ago with probably a terrible camera or a selfie with a person I care about, I feel great. I mean, for me, feelings and memories are very important. If you don't do photography professionally, in my opinion, one should not care about others reflections and just focus on their perspectives and memories.
What do you do when you're not shooting?
I do sports and read. I recently started surfing since I live just next to ocean and it is pretty exciting. And quite often, I go out, party, and get wasted.
Photography by Haluk Baysal
Any tips for wannabe Photographers?
Photography is so belittled these days because everyone can create beautiful photos with their smartphone. They need to know it’s a full time profession and they will probably work more hours than anyone else. I also had an illusion that being a photographer is all about hanging out with good looking people in St. Barts Island. In fact, you will be a small company to do your own marketing, accounting, scheduling, producing, ing ing and ing.. I often hear from people about wedding photographers that they just click shutter and get $10k a day. They never know about insurance costs, non-booked days, weeks of editing and so on. Photography might be a fun career yet it is very competitive as well. Also they probably need to focus on a type of photography. Although I know this mere fact, I have been doing the same mistake and try to do many types of different photography at the same time. And of course contacts. It is sometimes more who you know than what you do. I might be the one the best examples for lacking contacts as I have travelled most of the time. I think the real fun starts when you establish yourself and get to choose/reject jobs. They should also try to do personal project as often as possible.
From 'Mortals' by Haluk Baysal
Do you have a favourite image that you've taken?
I actually have several ones but nowadays I use the one that we shot in a pool as my main image. I really like the lighting and the way model looks into the camera.
Also I love the underwater image we did for Water Touch. It metaphorically tells the story of the short film well in my opinion.
From 'Water Touch' by Haluk Baysal