One part her, one part me
Collaborative Double Exposure with Ipek Saygi
By Annie Robinson Zeltman
Over the course of a couple of weeks, a conversation played out through rolls of film and different clues, notes, songs. After our first attempt at trading film in an earlier assignment, it seemed better to do our final collaboratively instead of individually. Just like singing harmony and melody is often necessary for a song. We naturally trade off in the images, between harmony and melody, quiet and loud. It seems that our photographs like each other. I think for both Ipek and me, working collaboratively drew more out of us, having to interact with each other as well as with each other’s photographs. This became an intimate and dynamic exchange. Then our interaction and mutual influence became the artwork itself.
For me, trading rolls of film with Ipek was like giving up a sense of control, having to reside in applying much of the content after developing the film. This was freeing. I focused on shooting my half and simply telling her about me and what I had been up to. That happened through making her copies of the music I was listening to when I shot the rolls or giving her one of my old wedding invitations that I found in a bottom drawer. Some of my notes were more intimate, confessional, and others were simple or even vague and mysterious. We exchanged pieces of us with each role. Making only half of the images allowed me to think more about the conversation, instead of the “final product.” It was a pleasant surrender.
Each role was a play of different approaches to journaling and self-portraiture. I photographed honest objects, pieces of my life, first. Then, I started photographing relationships. We each did a role about our relationships with our husbands, exposed on top of each other. Our lives began to interact on film along with us and our various forms of communication through the few weeks we spent photographing the piece.
With one roll, Ipek gave me a brochure about a Whirling Dervishes performance in Istanbul. This was important to me because I have been intrigued by their spirituality and have spent some time researching their practice of devotional dance. Spirituality is an overarching aspect of me. Personally, I love to see the freedom of dance invade the often-stifled practice of Christianity that has surrounded me for a lot of my lifetime. Dance can unlock me. I went back into that exploration of the Whirling Dervishes and decided to photograph my own “whirl.” It was the first time I had ever appeared as the subject in one of my own photographs.
After developing the rolls, I have chosen the images that I am drawn to. The allure of most of them is a fun depiction of Ipek-Annie combination, usually including interplaying elements of form, pattern, rawness, robustness, stillness, and subtleties. You can see into us through photographs of our ordinary moments and objects that surround us. I print showing the mismatched frames and film text because it is honest. These parts of the film are an important depiction of our exchange, like entries in a journal.