British photographer Guy Martin (b. 1983) interrogates the grey area between documentary and fiction in Turkey in his series Parallel State. Turkish former Prime minister Erdoğan used the term ‘parallel state’ after being convinced that he was being undermined by traitorous media, police, army, and various other bourgeoning institutions after a failed coup in 2016. ‘All part of a traitorous parallel state that could and would be blamed for any of his mishaps and Turkey’s ills,” Martin states. In his series, he takes actual events and draws an unexpected parallel to Turkish soap opera sets, as the surreal narratives almost got to the point of prime-time melodrama.
Parallel State alternates between photographs of set productions and documentary shots of protests, resulting in a multi-layered project in which nothing is quite what it seems. “The project strives to address the complexity of capturing ‘authentic’ moments as a documentary photographer today, confronted with media-conscious subjects acutely aware of how to stage a narrative for easiest consumption,” Martin states. In one image we see a man’s hand reaching to free a bird out of its cage, which resists by seeking shelter in its enclosure. The perfect metaphor for a society plagued by doubt and divisive falsehoods.
Parallel State is on display at Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival until January 3, 2018.