Intimate, natural, meticulous on lighting. So does photographer Yigit Gunel describe his style, albeit gladly and much humbly admitting he still has things to learn.
Whether that be true or not, there is something in the artistry of Yigit which makes his portraits shine, be it indeed the meticulous care for lighting or the extraordinary eye for detail. His focus on people makes every portrait feel personal, relatable and special, a display of class and style that few other photographers in this industry can boast with as much confidence.
For this Member Spotlight, we are learning more about Yigit Gunel, a talented photographer with a much varied and inspiring portfolio – some of which you can see below.
How did you get into the industry?
Photography was an experimental process of understanding relationships and friends during my childhood. Both of my parents were involved in photography, which allowed me to explore analogue techniques and black and white photography at an early age. My bachelor’s degree I study in Journalism and graduate with a photography project. My first job was in a print house. For a year, I extend my knowledge of colour and printing processes. Meanwhile, I finished my MFA in visual communication design.
After graduating with a photography book project; I have been hired as an art director in an advertisement agency.
I decided to start a new career after working in several agencies. Thinking it will be more efficient and easier for an agency creative to ask what they need from a photographer who has the same experiences on the agency side.
With those in mind, I established YG Studio in 2008 after working as an art director for six years. Some of the former agencies I worked as an art director became my clients and their clients also started to work with me that's how it all started.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
For the last 2,5 years I'm based in London. Before the pandemic, I was working in two cities London and Istanbul simultaneously. Mainly I'm working for advertisement agencies, music promoters, magazines and recently for Start-ups based all around the world that needs high-end imagery.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I guess I'll be travelling on my motorbike and now and then working as a scuba diving instructor.
Can you explain your creative process?
There are a couple of steps for me before creating anything. First, you need to fuel your engine and as we all know it's quite boring and dull to wake up early in the morning cold and drive to the gas station waiting for the pump to fill your tank. But if you like to make a journey you need to pass this process. Usually having a research phase before starting helps a lot. I would like to listen to some music that will put me in the mode for the brief and read some books or text. Looking at images online is not my preferred method for research. That keeps my mind clear of making prejudice visual decisions. I prefer my images based on ideas rather than visual stimulations of past works. Also usually giving it sometime right after reading the request and letting the brief sit on the back of my head clears my mind.
I never just sit and start my mood board. In these fast-pacing businesses that sounds like a luxury. But what I learned from giving fast responses and starting without thinking, always ends up with correcting more mistakes or getting more amendments from the client and therefore wasting more time. Because of this reason creatives forced to create mediocre work to catch the deadline and that's worst.
So, the next step for me is to mood board each shot or video frame that I'm working on. That's meticulous work for me I put more than %70 of my energy into planning and thinking about all details I need. Such as framing, lenses, lighting, colour, props, models etc. Rest is the shooting; it goes so fast already having a strict plan on my head relaxes me on set. I prefer to shoot fast but sure and less. So, I don't end up wasting time on selecting images. As Herzog said "We're not garbage collectors." When finish shooting all frames outlined in my initial mood board I start experimenting, trying new ideas and try to stretch the creativity muscles to other way. The third process is selecting. If I'm shooting for an agency or a magazine there is usually a creative director or an art director for a certain campaigns or editorial image selections. We usually choose roughly half of the images on set. That also gives us a great perspective on seeing images side by side before editing. So, if anything needs to be updated, I prefer to do it on set rather than afterwards on editing software. That extends from major light changes to picking up a hair strain on my model’s shoulder. The next step is editing the images roughly to give a brief idea to a retouch artist or sometimes to myself, making general adjustment during the shooting on Capture One. I usually share these images with a client before starting and going deep into editing. Upon approval of images, I start editing and finalising the project.
How would you describe your style?
So far, I can say, intimate, natural and meticulous on lighting. But I'm still learning.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I love Annie Leibovitz's work, who doesn't. I recently inspired by directors rather than photographers. Werner Herzog and Alejandro González Iñárritu are my two heroes. I think both of their work could be examined as photography frame by frame.
If you had to pick one ideal client/employer, who would that be and why?
Working with magazines for a long time I enjoyed taking portraits of celebrities who achieved a great deal. Meeting new people and telling their stories in my portraits is my goal for all my work.
My ideal client would be Colors Magazine with one of their long-term assignments. I like focusing on certain projects rather than working on fast-paced advertisement photoshoots.
How has technology affected the way you work?
It certainly makes some processes faster. Seeing the images on the set almost finished form has a great effect on client work. Especially with big productions, so you don't let anything to a chance. But on the other hand, I miss shooting black and white negatives or medium format slides. The film has its intimacy and magic that I never found with a digital camera.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
My dreamer personality has a great effect on my decisions. Focusing on the process while determining my goals, which inspired me and makes me think positively. One way or another, this moves me to a different place from where I have always been. That movement in life always inspires me. Constantly avoiding my comfort zone thought me a lot.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
In 2011 I made a project to create social awareness for women rights. 34th year of International Women's Day, 34 celebrity from different occupations have posed underwater holding their breath as long as they can and let go at the final moment. The exhibition took place in several cities in Turkey with the message from each celebrity. Exhibition venues especially determined by the areas where these problems occur most. Over 500.000 visitors have visited the exhibition. It became a social awareness project against violence towards women. Approximately 65 people from industry worked voluntarily throughout the whole project and United Nations Population Fund gave moral support. Seeing how photography can bring people together and interact with real-life problems to raise awareness has affected me.
How do you recharge away from the office?
I mainly focus on my projects nowadays. Being one of the photographers taking part in the London Creative Network Artist Development Programme this year helped me focusing my ongoing projects. Also riding my bike or motorbike charges me a lot. You don't have the luxury to think something else while you ride your motorbike. That's a great cleanse for my mind.
What is one tip for other aspiring creatives looking for work?
Instead of looking for work, create something that shows who you are, but do it very good. Then do it again and again. The work will find you.
What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?
Last-minute changes. But I guess it's in the nature of the advertisement industry.
Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
Bresson's The Mind Eye has been my bedside book for many years. Recently I'm reading a couple of books:
- Collect Contemporary Photography by Jocelyn Phillips,
- Slightly Out of Focus by Robert Capa,
- Photography and Belief by David Levi Strauss,
- The Social Photo: On photography and social media by Nathan Jurgenson.
I like following different media on photography. These are my daily go-to websites nowadays: