London Art Spot: Ahmet Barut

Ahmet Berut is a graphic designer, an illustrator, a photographer, an animator, a web designer, a Muslim with a passion for clarifying the misconceptions of his religion and, of course, a born and bred Londoner. The love of design started in primary school where Ahmet was fascinated by the design of storybooks while learning how to read. He graduated from university in 2009, sticking to the same career ideas he had way back then.

The core of his personal work is an effort to peel back the hard rind of negativity that lies between the peace inherent in Islam and the messages of fear and disapproval that have piled up since 9/11 and 7/7 became regular terms in the global media. Ahmet wants a bit of harmony in the world.

Beyond that, he has worked on creative projects with people like Dev.Soul (who is about to release a debut album) and is currently pursuing a 6-month internship at a charity-based organisation called L’Ouverture (www.louverture.co.uk) which he is enjoying tremendously.

Eventually, Ahmet would like to have his own freelance design company.

Dev.Soul, front of album cover

LLO: How long have you lived in London and how does this city influence your creativity?
AB:
 I’ve lived in London since I was born, and the city influences me in many more ways than one. London is a very interesting and unique place to live because of the vast diversity within its people and their backgrounds, be it class, ethnicity or faith. This unique setting conjures up an abundance of influence, which materializes into an atmosphere, which certainly makes you more conscious of the world. This has had an affect on the concepts behind my self-initiated and personal work. I use design to understand the world better and also try to help people understand certain aspects of the world, such as my background in particular. I think there is a need for people to come together in one way or another to try and understand each other better and to help break down walls, even in London, despite the fact that it’s tremendously multicultural.

Dev.Soul, CD design

LLO: What is your working process from brief to finished product?
AB:
 Once I read the brief, I distinguish the target market/audience and I pick out keywords, which I can use in the research phase. Before I start on the research, I jot down some initial ideas. I think the most important part of the working process is the research phase. I mainly undertake visual research into current trends and also I look into existing work, which relates to the brief. After research, I experiment with ideas based on what I have found. Once I’m happy with a certain style, I develop potential final designs. I create a variety of outcomes, which I show to the client to keep them updated with progress. On most occasions during this phase, the client chooses one or two for me to develop further, or sometimes they are happy with what I have produced as a final.

Dev.Soul, page 3-4 of CD booklet

LLO: Do you specialise in any specific field of graphic design and which aspect of design do you most enjoy?
AB:
I specialise in print work, however, I am also keen on specialising in motion graphics and web design. I particularly like motion graphics as I enjoy the working process of it and one of my ambitions is to work in the film, TV and gaming industry. I have also started to get into web design, as I have found that most of my work revolves around the web. There are also a lot of great opportunities once you have good web design skills.

 Dev.Soul, back of business card

LLO: Tell us a bit about your recent project “The Misunderstood Religion of Islam”. How did you come up with the idea?
AB:
I had undertaken “The Misunderstood Religion of Islam” project for my final major assignment at university. The aim of the project was to factually dispel the universal misconceptions that many people have about Islam. In the process this would educate people about the religion and also hopefully open their eyes to something they thought had no positive impact or role in the world’s history.

The final products comprise of an A5 booklet, accompanied by several posters. The booklet contains articles dispelling the 10 most common misconceptions of Islam with quotes from the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith’s (traditional sayings) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him). The posters have vivid images with strong statements and questions, making people think differently about Islam.

A3 Islam, Front Cover

I came up with the idea in response to the unfair negative press Islam is getting in the media, especially in today’s global climate. I felt there was a moral need to address the misconceptions that have been created in all the confusion, which has stemmed from misinformation.

Unfortunately, on some occasions this confusion has led to undeserved hate towards Islam. This hatred is evident and can be seen across the Internet. For example, I would come across informative videos relating to Islam on sites such as YouTube, and around about 80-90% of comments on those videos were extremely negative – threats such as “Let’s kill all Muslims” or “They should all be kicked out of our country” etc. The latter consisted of misconceptions such as “Islam is a terrorist religion” or “Islam oppresses women”.  I feel that education is very important, because it is the only thing that will bring peace and unity.

People can take a look at the project here.

Misconception

LLO: What messages are you conveying through your work?
AB:
The main message I want to convey through my work is that not everything is what it seems. For instance, when you look deeper into something, it usually turns out to be different from what one would first assume. I tried to visually represent this connotation through “The Misunderstood Religion of Islam” project, by creating a notion of confusion and distortion through the typography.  I want to be involved in more projects that relate to these types of subjects that  hopefully make people aware of certain social issues.

Terrorism is not a religion – A3 poster

LLO: Which project are you most proud of so far and why?
AB:
The project I am most proud of is “The Misunderstood Religion of Islam” both ethically as well as aesthetically. I hope the project has cleared up any confusion that people might have had. I also hope that the project can be a platform for people to start discussions and debates. I think that the design style of the work has been successful in communicating the context of the project. It has also inspired me to experiment further with information design.

LLO: Who is your dream client and why?
AB:
I have two dream clients, the first one being Naughty Dog, a computer games company. They have worked on games such as Unchartered 2 & classics such as Crash Bandicoot. The reason why I would want to work for them is because working in the gaming industry as an art worker is one of my goals.

My second client would be an organisation such as Current TV, which is an experimental media company. I am very interested in the work that they do, especially in the documentaries they make about world issues. That is a field I would definitely want to work in. From the clients I have given, I don’t favour one over the other. I want to work towards gaining opportunities to work in both areas.

Summer Saturday performance club poster for L’Ouverture

LLO: Favourite London-based artists and designers?
AB:
I am very fond of a London-based artist/designer/illustrator who calls himself TWIY (Alex Chappell). He has a unique style in the work that he does. He ranges from print design, to illustration to painting. His work can be described in many more words than one, because I haven’t really come across many works like his. Some of the words that could be used to describe his work are unique, vibrant, exuberant, fresh amongst many more. People should take a look for themselves at his site. (www.twiy.co.uk)

LLO: How would you like to see your career develop over the next few years?
AB:
In the next few years, I want to gain as much valuable experience as I can. I also want to keep on developing my style of work, as I will be doing throughout my career. Ultimately, I would want to have enough knowledge and preparation to be able to set up my own freelance design business.

Calling all playwrights competition poster

LLO: What are you working on now?
AB:
I recently finished working on a marketing campaign to promote a website relaunch of L’Ouverture’s partner IdeasTap. I created a promotional video to attract people to the new site. I am also currently working on completing a promotional video to advertise L’Ouverture and their services.

Apart from working with L’Ouverture, I am also working on a variety of other external projects.

My main personal project I am working on is redesigning the style of my website and also updating my portfolio. I try to always update the style of my site (www.ahmetbarutdesign.com) as much as I can. This plays a big part in my training for web design, as I would like to gain a foothold in the web industry.

I have also just finished working with a recently graduated music producer who goes by the name of Dev.Soul. He will be releasing his debut album, so I branded his name and designed him a music album sleeve cover, album booklet and business card. I have already worked with Dev.Soul in the past on another project. This project was called “20th July 1974”. We collaborated in creating a visual audio documentary based on the Turkish Cypriot’s untold story of the Cyprus war in the 1970’s.

I am also currently involved in an ongoing self-initiated project, which carries on the work of “The Misunderstood religion of Islam” project, which hopefully helps people become aware of certain world and social issues and also makes people clear about the teachings and beauty of Islam.

Thanks Ahmet! 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Art Spot: Julie Kertesz

Julie Kertesz, 75

Born in Hungary almost 76 years ago, Julie grew up in Transylvania (which, until she was ten, was part of Hungary then Romania). At the age of 30, she arrived in France and moved to London in July 2008. Here, she has been using English – her fourth language – to explore the wonders of the city and meet nearly 1,000 Londoners for impromptu photographs that she collects in her Flickr set, “Londoners“.

“A nice couple in the street” 

Julie is more proud of her two children and five grandchildren than of her phD in physics, and more proud that she can tell a story in English in the Canal Café theatre with SPARK – then of the more than 1,000 daily views of her Flickr photographs. She is more proud of her group !afterclass!, a photography masterclass on Flickr which is already in its 45th month and theme, then of having won the 1st prize in a competition called Museums at Night – a gallery curated by Culture24 and the fact that her photos will likely appear as examples for the this year’s event. She is most proud of her blog, her photos and storytelling. These allow her to give courage to those who feel their older age, to remind them that at any age, “even after 70”, they can feel and think in a young way and continue to learn new skills.

  “In bus 53 London”

Besides being an avid blogger (including one blog where she has published her first diary from the age of 10), photographer and storyteller, she is learning to improve her public speaking skills with the Toastmaster Club. This was her main activity last year where she won a “competent communicator” diploma. In Argenteuil, France, she was named “Mamie Blogger and Photographer”. Julie is a member of the London Independent Photographers and loves approaching people to photograph them.

Catch up with Julie’s daily contributions to her blogs and her Flickr page for a look at London life at the age of 75. If you have an extra 10 minutes, listen to Julie tell her story of how she came to London to an audience at Canal Cafe Theatre: Now or Never, as recorded.mp3

“Portobello People and Sights – 75”

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
JK:
 First in London I discovered the meetup groups and went to Artist’s Way weekly meetings in Royal Festival Hall, then with different meetup photo groups. Second, I discovered London Independent Photographers satellite in Greenwich. I gave speeches about different aspects of photography there and at King University. Third, I discovered from my arrival for a year, the different festivals of different groups, and was also enchanted by how easy it is in London to take photos of people. Then, I discovered the Toastmasters clubs, refreshed my public speaking ability and begin to tell more and more stories. Now, I intend to weave these all together in a multimedia project combining photography, small video parts and storytelling, directly and on the web. Yes, London helps me a lot with my creativity.

“London Canal Stroll (8)”

LLO: You have nearly 36,000 photos on your Flickr page. Where is your favourite place to take your camera?
JK:
If it was only one place, it would be near the Thames and the Royal Festival Hall, but also Deptford Hight Street market and wall arts and the different markets and festivals. Anywhere around me, I find inspiration in London’s rich diversity.

“Angela at Little Venice (16)”

LLO: When and how did you first become interested in photography?
JK:
 I was told, in 2004, I did not know enough English to register to the Paris writer’s conference, and they proposed me photographic group and classes. But also, a book about writing suggested we go out in our own town with a camera around our neck and “make ourselves tourists in our own town” looking around with new eyes. Going to an almost oriental market in Argenteuil, near Paris, I was stunned at the ease and delight of people when I took photos of them. Going towards people was my first motivation to continue from then on. So I begin really taking photos at age of 70, before I thought I liked more to write.

“Underground 1”

LLO: What type of camera do you use?
JK:
I use most of the time a small compact camera that I can (and yes, I do) carry with me all the time. I did buy a few months ago a light reflex, but I did not use it much, in fact. My photography is more documentary then “artistically” oriented, so it is better to have it always ready, and with me.

“Centre Greenwich”

LLO: Not very many 70-somethings are on Flickr or blogging daily the way you do. It’s great to see that. You have video blogs, a blog with your first diary from age 10 translated from the original Hungarian, blogs in French and English. How did you become so interested in photo-sharing and blogging?
JK:
 I discovered blogging, after having tried without success to publish my French-translated diary (from ago 10 to 70). On the web, the blog gave me instantly an easy-to-use place where I could publish. As it was the same time, almost, as I begin my documentary Paris photo classes, I was delighted to being able to publish, via Flickr, also pictures. That is how I first discovered Flickr, but after that I also discovered the groups and lots of interactions, going on there. I also met, personally, some bloggers and some Flickr photographers from all over the world. They came to Paris, now in London, from New Zealand, Australia, America, Brazil, Spain, etc. And I went to Flickr photograph strolls with them, in Washington, in Palermo, etc.

 “Soho”

LLO: I’m very interested in your Flickr set called “Londoners” with 978 images. Can you tell us a bit about this?
JK:
 I love interaction, even if shortly, with people, and I did feel quit alone. I begun my “Parisians”, then I made a set of people in every place I visited, Moroccans, Sicilians, Romanians, etc. So, it seemed normal to go on to Londoners (now over 1,000) who I met in one and half years. Most of them smiled warmly to me, enchanted to be photographed. More and more often, they are the ones to thank me, feeling well, and like celebrities, after I take the photo, after I show them, after we chat a bit also, whenever possible.

“Early Saturday to Farringdon”

At the beginning, in Paris, for example, in shops and markets, I also gave them their photo a week or two later, then took some new ones. Nowadays, I give the address of Flickr where they can find and download, use the photos I have taken of them, or send them by email. And some of them ask me to take photo of me, or of me together with them, or their friends, too. So, sometimes, it is very reciprocal.

“Soho”

Then, I had a project completed almost in a year of visiting Paris’ different “arrondissements” boroughs one by one and discovering lesser known places, more than often new also for me who had lived there for long years. Then, coming in London, I tried to do the same, but instead of “boroughs”, finally I did festivals and markets.

I found that in London there were even more people, thirsty of attention. Taking a photo of them fills a bit that gap, I do believe.

“Gout de Vivre”

LLO: Is capturing photographs of Londoners an ongoing project for you?
JK:
Yes, of course. Just lately, I asked my way from an elder delivery man in a small car and then asked if I can take his photo, yes, it was yesterday, here it is!

And also I took photos and small videos of the New Year’s Day London parade until the end, not realizing my legs were freezing and too tense. It took me a week to feel better, but yes, it was worth it. I went also out last year to the Museum at Night, and the photo I took has also people. I do not ask aways. Sometimes, one just cannot disturb people interracting with each other. One of my photos from that event won the first prize and I am asked to be “official” photographer for this year’s event.

Late Night at Museums – Portrait Gallery after 9pm 

LLO: Londoners are typically a bit sceptical of being approached by strangers, but most of the people in your images seem to have warmed to you. How do you go about asking permission to take someone’s photograph?
JK:
 I thought a lot about this question as many other photographers asked me. I understand it now even better, after having completed my ten speech projects to become “Competent Communicator” at Toastmasters. The project number 5 was all about body language. I think before and sometimes instead even of speaking, we look at each other’s body language. If it looks friendly, admiring, full with sympathy, the other answers to that with confidence.

“Thames Walk with Klara – 39”

I really do not think my age or sex has to do with people accepting and sympathizing with me. That could be seen in many of my photos, but it is their reaction to how I feel, look, move, and also, sometimes, speak. Making them feel good about themselves, appreciating how they are. As they are.

Here is one example, of a young “punk”-like looking boy, whose photo I took at the end of my photo stroll at the Trafalgar Square Hindu Light Festival, Diwali. He was so proud I chose him and appreciated how he did prepare his hair!

Young boy with “punk” hair at Diwali festival, Trafalgar Square

Of course, all are not saying “yes”, but so what? I am prepared also sometimes to “no” as we should all be when we ask someone something. But in taking photos of people, so far, I had so much more “yes” or “why, me?” than plain “no”.

“Greenwich Park on a Sunday – 83”

LLO: Which image are you most proud of and why?
JK:
It is not so easy to choose one image from around 100,000 I have taken from age 70. Those I prefer are not the ones seen 2o,000 times or 6,000 times, or those from “prize” either. They are all pictures with whom I feel sentimental attachment, like my granddaughter and her black friend and schoolmate near each other smiling to me both toothlessly around age eight. Or the man whose soul is somewhat revealed in a photo I took before he knew it, after he “composed”. If I have to give only one of the images, other then the last one that usually like best, it would be this one. Simple, cherries from my garden, in which I recognize “how is familly life”: some alone, some just lost their pairs (as I was just then), some with children, and yet others, their life poisoned with one bad one between them.

“Cherries”

LLO: Who are your favourite London-based artists?
JK:
 I like a lot, some London-based storytellers, and have a great admiration for the professor and photographer John Levitt, not only leading LIP Greenwhich, but also just formed a joint study group with Goldsmith University. Being an excellent, and modest photographer, he is an inspiration to me.

Self-portait – “After Swimming”

Thanks Julie!

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Mohammed A.

Listen to a Londoner. This is a weekly post where people who live (or have lived for a while) in London answer a few questions about the Big Smoke. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new victims volunteers….

Mohammed AMohammed A., 30

Mohammed is working on finishing the editing of his debut novel, hastily recording a home-made album and trying to preach that sun avoidance is actually bad for you (but don’t get him into that or he won’t stop…)

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
MA:
I was born here, so all my 30 years.

LLO: Where are you (or your family) from originally if not London?
MA:
My parents are from Pakistan. And I went there (to Lahore and Islamabad) for the first time ever in early October.

LLO: Best thing about London?
MA:
Has to be the diversity.

LLO: Worst thing about London?
MA:
People being too self-absorbed.

LLO:  North, south, east or west?
MA:
West.

LLO: Best restaurant?
MA:
Gifto’s Lahore Karahi in Southall.

LLO: Best shop?
MA:
I have had a fondness since childhood for the now gone Woolworths, especially my local one.

LLO:  Best place to escape the city?
MA:
Primrose Hill…You don’t quite escape it, you just appreciate it from the outside.

LLO: 2012 Olympics – stay or go?
MA:
I wasn’t fond of us hosting it, but I am now interested to see all the pomp we’ll get.

LLO:  How do you spend your time on the tube?
MA:
Looking at my own reflection on the glass…There are better faces to see, but my own saves me from looking into others’ eyes (I suffer from ‘eyes down syndrome’ like most).

LLO: Most random thing you’ve seen in London.
MA:
On Golborne Road there’s a series of pictures along a wall, of a life-sized doll laying on top of said wall and people looking up at it. Some sort of art experiment.

LLO: Best place to catch a gig?
MA:
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, just for the intimacy.

LLO: Best local band?
MA:
That surely has to be my own, though we won’t be gigging for quite a while yet (shameless plug: http://www.purevolume.com/Dishonesty).

LLO: Favourite book, song or film about London?
MA:
The song ‘Forces Of Viktry’ on Linton Kwesi Johnson’s ‘Forces Of Victory’ album (a great one). It documents the Notting Hill Carnival. LKJ in general is an essential Londoner, a great poet.

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
MA:
Hampton Court Palace. I thought it would be boring, but it was ace and the staff are really friendly and interactive in a non-patronising way. My ex-girlfriend made me go.

LLO: Best place to spend a Sunday afternoon?
MA:
If it’s sunny, Holland Park is good to lounge around in.

LLO: Best museum or gallery?
MA:
Natural History Museum.

LLO: Favourite market?
MA:
Portobello.

LLO: Most influential Londoner?
MA:
Michael Caine. For two reasons: Not only is he one of the finest British actors ever, his recent speech about alienated youth turning to crime in regards to his latest film Harry Brown was spot on.

LLO: Best London magazine, newspaper or website?
MA:
Transport for London’s (tfl.gov.uk); sums up London, image-wise, the best.

LLO: If you were to dress up as one of the tube station names for a costume party, which would you be?
MA:
Bank…Although in the current economic climate, maybe not such a good idea.

LLO: Best time of year in London?
MA:
Autumn. Can’t beat the sight of fallen bronze leaves.

LLO: Best place for a first date?
MA:
Oxford Circus at night once the Xmas lights are on. Loads of nice places to eat, and when you’re tongue tied you can suggest she looks in the shops.

LLO: First place to take a visitor?
MA:
The London Eye seems the accepted cliche now.

LLO: Favourite place to be on a Saturday night?
MA:
Catching a film at the Electric Cinema.

LLO: Best and worst things about tourists?
MA:
Flattering most seem to ask me for directions in a big crowd, but am irritated at how slow they walk when I’m just trying to get my groceries home.

LLO: Boris is……
MA:
 … a good London mascot, as was Ken. I truly think the mayoral role in London is just about being a sort of teddy bear figure.

Thanks Mo!

6 Billion Others

Somewhere between 30-40% of people living in London were born outside the UK. That’s a pretty significant amount, and, as most people will probably agree, the diversity of this city is one of its greatest assets.

In the spirit of that, even though it’s not about London specifically, I wanted to share this project called 6 Billion Others. It’s an incredible endeavour undertaken by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand and a team who travelled around the world interviewing people from all walks of life to find their answers to some fundamental questions. Over four years, in 75 countries, they filmed 5,000 interviews that capture intimacy and authenticity. Each person was asked 40 questions.

Living in a city where people come from so many different backgrounds – any of these people could live in London – I am always drawn to these explorations of culture, values, ideas.

I’ve been reading the book version of 6 Billion Others, split up by question with photographs and a select few answers.

On one page, an elderly Nepalese woman named Putali with a dark wrinkled forehead and a hoop through her nose answers the question, “What were your childhood dreams?” She replies, “I would have loved to go abroad. Living here, we just live to eat. And time passes by. I had this dream, but nobody came to take me away. That’s it.” Answers like that, they make you think about your own life.

Yona, a woman with dark curls and a beaming smile, lives in Canada. Her answer to “What does love mean to you?” was one of my favourites. She said, “Each one of us is like our own planet, our own country, with our own rules and history, and I think that what allows us to fall in love is when we meet someone who wants to explore our planet, and wants to learn how, in spite of its complexity, to climb to the top of its mountains and go to the bottom of the darkest caverns, and who will be able to appreciate the beauty of all the nooks and crannies that exist inside of each of us.”

My thoughts keep coming back to this city, that anyone of these faces could be one of the anonymous ones I passed in the street today.

There’s a teaser video of some of the responses:

Number One Name: Mohammed

Last week, it was revealed by the Office of National Statistics that  Mohammed is now the most popular boys’ name in London, and a few other British cities. Considering its significance in Islam and the fact that the Muslim population is rising 10 times faster than the rest of the population, it’s not surprising.

It’s refreshing, I have to say, coming from a small American city so white (97.86%)  it was historically known as a “sundown town“. There’s not much religious data available, but the few pages I did find listed it as “0.02% are an eastern faith; 0.00% affilitates with Islam.” 

Being in a city like London where you can walk out your door to so many different languages being spoken, having a choice of Nepalese or Pakistani or Spanish or Moroccan restaurants within a few minutes walk of one another, seeing differences in people’s faces, lifestyles, cultures, faiths, etc, is one of the most incredible experiences. It opens your eyes to so many possibilities and life choices.