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Emel Sefer : Photographer of the week

by Yvette Depaepe 
Published the 13th of December 2021

Emel Sefer loves to travel and to travel, to discover cultures and to take environmental portraits. Her work is strong and story telling. She also masters creatively edited photos but to her they also are portraits born in her thoughts instead of in a visible context.  Let's discover more about Emel through this interview. Enjoy !


'Benin Boys'


Dear Emel, can you briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs?  What first attracted you to photography and what are your most important life experiences which affected your photography ?
I was born in Cyprus, an island torn apart by two major wars when I was one and twelve years old. I grew up in a low-income family, my only luxury was the books I bought by saving my pocket money. I had read almost all the classics before I finished high school. Of all the novel genres, I like biographical stories the most (perhaps that's why I turned to portrait photography). Although I am interested in history, literature and art, all my education was on science and mathematics under the guidance of my teachers, and so was my working life after university. But I never stopped reading books and watching movies. My encounter with photography came about by pure coincidence after completing half a century of my life. I signed up for a basic photography course through an advertisement that was thrown under my door. I thought photography would be an excuse as I love to travel, get to know new places and new cultures, but since then I couldn't give up on photography any more.


'Pinky Beauty'



'Little Monk's School'



'Flirtatious Look'


Can you describe your overall photographic vision?
As a person, I believe in lifelong learning. While trying to improve myself by learning new things, my general vision is to contribute to the art and culture of photography in my environment and to transfer my knowledge by taking part in its art and culture.


'Family at the Market'



'Cleaning Time'



'Sauce Making'



'Little Porter'



'Brick Factory'


You have your very own style but your work is very diversified.  I see documentary, portraits as well as creatively edited images.  Can you explain why this is?
Yes, at first glance, my works seem diverse, but to me, they are all portraits. While some of my portraits reflect only the face of the person and reflect the emotion there, some of them show the person with the place where he lives and his surroundings. They are also environmental portraits because they reflect the environment of the photographed person. I think the right amount of background details gives him/her more importance. What is qualified as documentary are environmental portraits of people from the countries I visited. When it comes to my creative works, they are also portraits to me.  The main difference is that I try to create those portraits in my thoughts instead of in a visible context.


'Through children eyes'




'Mother Earth'


What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
What does technique matter if a photograph speaks, tells a story, makes you feeling emotions.


What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
Since the portraits I took were spontaneous, our relationship does not go beyond eye contact. But after taking a photo, I show it to the people to get their approval.  If they say 'delete it' I will delete it. The portraits I took with the knowledge of the person are also people I met by chance. I try to chat with them and get to know them a little.  After getting used to each other, I take pictures of them in their most natural state. I usually don't interfere with my models, sometimes I just want them to change their position according to the direction of the light. I have very few photos that I edit. I try to capture my models like they are rather than posing. If I have determined the location, I only plan from which point and from which angle I will shoot, there is no other intervention.

What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
I don't have much equipment. I used to use Canon 6D before, but I have been using Fuji XT2 for a long time, my lens is Fujinon 16-55 f2.8, that's all. I don't need anything else anyway. I think more would be an unnecessary burden, it's your eye that takes the picture. The camera is just a tool.


What software do you use to process your images?
I edit my photos in Adobe Photoshop. I also use Nic Collection Silver Efex from time to time, especially for black and white photographs.


Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
I shoot my photos in Raw+Jpeg. JPEG photos are just so I can see the light better, the ones I edit are raw photos. I open the photo in the raw window and just look at the light settings and white balance. I adjust the crop, contrast and sharpness settings in Photoshop. After processing the photos in colour, I convert the appropriate ones to black and white.


'Curious eyes' 

'Wait Wait We Are Coming'


'Little Nun and Her Dog'


'Curly Girl'

However, since I prefer to reflect a large diversity of cultures, most are colour images. I turn very few of them into black and white. I don't like to interfere with my photos too much, except for the creative ones.


What is your most important advice to a beginner in documentary, portrait or creatively edited photography and how do you get started?
My most important advice is to watch lots of photos. Just as you cannot be a writer without reading a lot of books.1X is the perfect platform for this, you can watch the best images on the subjects you are most interested in. In addition, if you look at the scenes through the eyes of a photographer while watching a movie, you will train your eyes by capturing great frames. Apart from these, we should feed ourselves by reading art history, because painting is the ancestor of photography. Each person perceives reality with his own knowledge, appearance is a process of the seer, not the visible, so a portrait photograph is also a self-portrait of the photographer, it reflects his personality. This is what I mean when I say we should feed ourselves.

'True Love'





Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography? 
My favourite photographers are Sebastiao Salgado and Eugene Smith. I would like to be like them, to change things in the world with my photographs, of course, this is utopia for me. Apart from these, another photographer I love to follow is Steve McCurry. I have adopted the balance and simplicity of his photographs as my principle. I've also been admiring the portraits of Sergio Pandolfini (serpan), a valuable member of 1X.


Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
As soon as I started photography, I found myself in competitions. I have many national and international awards and EFIAP titles. But then I gave up and realized that the contests did not contribute much to my photography, and now I participate very little in contests. My next goal is to shed light on the present and the future with various photography projects. I have a project that I've been thinking about for a long time but I'm not ready yet. It's about the division of my country and peace. There were photographers who worked on this subject before me, but I did not want to see a divided Cyprus with the subject of border gates, wire fences, burnt down houses, immigration, families of martyrs, as in those photographs, but instead  I would like to see and tell how our tiny island can turn into a paradise if an atmosphere of peace is provided. Since it is not possible to realize such a project directly with photography, I need to make use of semiotics. Of course, there will be portraits in it, but the language of expression will not be direct photography, but photography that shows the invisible. To put it more clearly, they are photographs in which the viewer can attribute meaning in line with his own perception by making use of semiotics. It is a series that draws the audience in, makes them think and even creates new layers by chatting. I would be happy if I could contribute to the peace of my country even a little bit with this work. As I said in the beginning, it is a very difficult goal to reach, so I need to think and prepare very well.


Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
All my photos are special to me, it is impossible to pick out a single one.





'Deep Look'






'Indian Girl'


Is there anything else you wish to add  and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
First of all, it is very kind of you to give me this opportunity to talk about myself and my photographic world.  Thanks from the bottom of my heart. There are so many master photographers with amazing works which I follow on 1X doing an amazing work.  That's why your offer to interview me among them made me very proud and motivated me to produce better photos. 1X is an incredibly perfect platform, you have the chance to follow the very best in every photography category. In addition to all this, you learn to recognize and pick out excellent photos while contributing to the member curation by selecting photos to be published. I am very happy to be a member of 1x.


Striking pictures. Love them.
Dear Emel, Thank you for your interesting interview and to tell about your life and art. You know the art of capturing emotion in all your photos! Congratulations! Also Yvette, thank you!!
Dear Gabrielle, heartfelt thanks for your motivating words.
Well deserved attention for a lovely lady with incredibly beautiful documentary work and heartfelt portraits! Many thanks to both for the background infos, motivation and inspiration.
Dear Gerda, I sincerely thank you for your kind words.
wonderful shots and superbes documentaries ... congrats
Many thanks dear Anna
very interesting interview, incredibly exciting to read. A fantastic selection of images to match, it was fun to look at all of that again. Thanks a lot dear Emel and also thanks to Yvette
Thank you, dear Hans-Wolfgang !
Dear Hans, if you enjoyed this interview, rest assured that all the effort belongs to dear Yvette, I just answered the questions with all sincerity. Thank you so much.
Tebrikler.. Mükemmel bir röportaj.. Yüreğine sağlık...
Teşekkürler Niyazi..
Dear Emel, first of all let me congratulate you on this well deserved recognition that 1x has done to your art and your talent. It was very interesting to be able to find out more about the woman behind the photographer and about your way of understanding photography. You are undoubtedly one of the most talented reportage photographers on this site so rich in many talents, but above all you are one of the few capable of transmitting such intense emotions with your images. Your portraits (as can also be seen from this small selection) are as technically perfect as they are emotionally engaging. You have the ability to convey emotions, whether they are those of a glance or a situation it does not matter, just like the great master Salgado to whom you have declared to inspire you and which by now you have almost reached in my opinion. So sincere congratulations my friend. But now let me also thank you from the bottom of my heart for having been kind enough to mention my photos as another source of inspiration for you. Your esteem is truly an immense honor for me, for which I struggle to find adequate words to express my deep gratitude. So you will have to settle for a simple thank you, but truly full of affection and sincere gratitude my dear Emel. Finally, thanks also to our friend Yvette, for having once again caught a pearl among the many photographers present on 1x and for having brought it to the attention of the whole community.
Believe me, Sergio ... It gives me so much satisfaction when I discover aa pearl and present an interview . I admire Emel's work !!!
Dear Sergio, you have written so many beautiful things that I have read them over and over. Although I'm not quite sure I deserve these honorable words, you motivate me so well that I'm starting to believe that one day I will deserve it. Your photos have always inspired me, I watch with great admiration. Also, dear Yvette's contribution to the creation of this interview is great, I would like to take this opportunity to thank her once again. I will copy and save these beautiful words you wrote, they will be my light. Thank you from the heart.
Tebrikler Emel hanım. Fotoğraflar, yaratıcı çalışmalar her biri ayrı güzel.
Çok teşekkür ederim Seracettin Bey
Congratulations on this interview with an excellent photographer. I'm already a fan of Emel and I follow his work.
Dear Miguel, many thanks for your appreciation.
Harika Emel hanım. Tüm fotoğraflar üst seviyede . Tekrar tebrik ederim.👏👏👏
Samim Bey çok teşekkür ederim.
Tebrik ederim Emel Hn.
Çok teşekkür ederim Adem
Many congrats for this excellent interview, Emel. All the best.
Many thanks dear Fernando
Nice work ! Congrats !
Thanks so much dear Marc.
I haven’t seen an average photo of you, all are both technically and emotionally perfect. Congratulations!
Many thanks for your kind appreciation dear Mustafa.
Congratulations Emel! Effective and beautiful portraits. Thanks Yvette!
Many thanks dear Ali.
Tebrik ederim
Arman Kuzel, çok teşekkür ederim.
I have always loved the strong emotional expression in your photos. I sincerely congratulate you, my dear friend Emel.
My dear friend, it is an honor to hear such nice words from you, thank you very much.
Dear Emel, I have been following your work and I really admire the way each image tells a story... Many congratulations to you for your impressive interview and photos. .. My compliments to Yvette for great selection of images and nice interview.
Dear Rana, your nice words made me very happy. Thank you very much.
It was a pleasure to learn more about Emel’s philosophy behind her exceptional work. Congratulations!
Thank you so much dear Sydney.
Dear Yvette, first of all, thank you very much for this nice interview. My other thanks to you for the photos you took out of your busy work, it was a great arrangement, thank you for your efforts.
Reading your answers, I finally had a hard time to select your images, Emel. Your work is so beautiful. Your BW portrait and images make me think about a great photographer here on 1x. You should check him out : Andre du Plessis FRPS. You will love his work. Thanks for the fine collaboration, Emel. Cheers, Yvette
tebrikler Emel Hanımcım... muhteşem....
İnci Hanım çok teşekkür ederim.