Eye to Eye

atufanpalali_eyetoeye (12)

This study was carried out on 16 January, 2010 during the long boycott of ‘The Turkish State Liquor and Tobacco Monopoly’ labourers whose status was changed to the ‘4-c temporary staff’ by the closing of their factories. In my photographs I have tried to capture the inner feelings of the boycotting labourers and build empathy for their plight. It is necessary to mention that for ethical reasons I have not published any photographs of the children who endured the difficult conditions of the boycott with their parents. Nor have I included the photographs of the exhausted labourer who had a heart-attack late at night. In fact I didn’t even want to take another photo after I witnessed this sad event.

While I was taking those photographs among the labourers, I sometimes felt as if I were living in Emile Zola’s novel ‘Germinal’, published in March, 1885. Let me share a short excerpt from the novel with you to commemorate Zola: ‘Oh, by the way’ said Maheude to her man, ‘as you are going into Montsou for your wages, bring me back a pound of coffee and a kilo of sugar, will you? He was sewing up one of his shoes to save taking it to the cobbler’s. ‘All right,’ he said, without looking up. ‘I should like to ask you to go to the butcher’s as well… What about a bit of veal? We haven’t seen any for such a long time.’ This time he did look up. ‘You must think I’m going to draw hundreds and thousands… It’s a short fortnight, with their bloody idea of constantly stopping work.’ They both fell silent. It was after lunch on a Saturday at the end of October. Alleging that pay-day disorganized work, the Company had one again held up output in all the pits. Panic-stricken at the growing industrial crisis and anxious not to increase its already heavy stock, it seized the slightest pretext for forcing its ten thousand employees into idleness (1).

Lastly, I would also like to call your attention to two other interesting scenes during the boycott. The first one is the mosaic formed by the Municipal cleaning workers who tried to do their jobs among the protesting labourers”. Second is that of a 16 year-old boy who was working in a kiosk on the street where the boycott took place”. That night I learned that the boy dropped out of school and regularly works until 4 o’clock in the morning for 350 Turkish Lira (about $170) per month without any insurance.
‘Why?… Why didn’t you stay in your school?’ I asked.
‘Brother!… Don’t ask me, it is just a little bit complicated…’ he replied.
I didn’t insist ” and said nothing more to him… 
A.Tufan Palalı, 2010
1.Zola, E., Germinal, Penguin Putnam Inc., chapter IV, p.173, New York, USA (1954)

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