Renate Graf: A Photographic Journey Through Time and Along the Silk Road

Renowned photographer Renate Graf takes visitors along the Silk Road in Central Asia, highlighting the contrasts of life depicted in black and white in her photographs.

His exhibition “Travel in time and along the Silk Road” was inaugurated on Friday by the French Institute of Turkey as well as the embassies of France and Austria in the capital Ankara. Enthusiasts can visit the exhibition until March 27 at the CerModern art center. The exhibition presents a series of large-format black and white photographs and photographic projections of Graf’s journeys on the Silk Road through Central Asia and as far as Turkey, from 1993 to 2021. Graf invites us to discover the story path around the Silk Road. The exhibition includes shots from different points in Asia, such as the Himalayan mountains or the historic Uzbek city of Samarkand.

A photo of Renate Graf is seen at CerModern, Ankara, Turkey, January 28, 2022. (Daily Sabah Photo)

Graf also brings us face to face with the fight against climate change and environmental transformation, using the power of this exhibition to call on the governments and people of Turkey, France and other countries to act together.

“I carry within me all the dreams of the world, and one of these dreams is to travel through it in order to rewrite it in images… During these travels, I drew my inspiration from the register of Sufism, the ‘way’ as defined by the great poet Rumi. An idea that has never left me across Turkey and in the heart of Central Asia…”

Speaking to Daily Sabah, Graf explained that the idea for the exhibit originated amid the pandemic in the Uzbek capital Tashkent and was the brainchild of the French ambassador there.

“Many of the photos on display here come from a trip that lasted three and a half months in 1993 from China, through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan – which I loved – India and all the way back to Anatolia – we actually flew to Istanbul,” she said.

Stating that she made the trip by car, Graf said, “It was the time when traveling really meant something without a phone and (being) unreachable.”

Speaking about the current exhibition, she mentioned that it was held in Tashkent for the first time, and a small part of the photos had already been exhibited in China in 2018.

“It was in a beautiful old photography museum in the middle of the pandemic, with a lot of attention and about 200 members of the press,” said Graf, speaking about the exhibition in Tashkent, describing the event. like a celebration.

The exhibition of the photographer’s journey through the Silk Road will also be available for art lovers in Istanbul, Graf pointed out, saying Azerbaijan, Israel and Greece are also among the countries on the list.

Stating that she was 25 when her great adventure began, Graf said some of the photographs she took will be exhibited in Ankara for the first time, adding, “I felt like I was the first person to discover the places I visited during my trip. I felt like the explorers of the 19th century. Through these photos, I tried to convey my state of mind at different times.”

A photo of Renate Graf is seen at CerModern, Ankara, Turkey, January 28, 2022. (Daily Sabah Photo)

A photo of Renate Graf is seen at CerModern, Ankara, Turkey, January 28, 2022. (Daily Sabah Photo)

Sylvie Lemasson, Director General of the French Institute Turkey, in her speech at the opening of the exhibition, describes the photos as follows: “These black and white photos, which obviously do not constitute a choice, take us to contrasts of different corners of the world. We also know that these photos warn us of our fragile ecosystem, but they also invite us to see the play of extremes and contrasts – the contrasts between the sun and the disappearing glaciers, the contrasts between water and drought , the contrasts between the fractured earth and the swirling sand.

Graf was born in Austria. Literature, but also poetry, lead Graf to devote himself to photography. During his readings, images arise in his mind and photography helps to document them. Writers and poets such as Fernando Pessoa, Rainer Maria Rilke,

Austrian photographer Renate Graf is seen in this photo.  (Courtesy of the French Institute)

Austrian photographer Renate Graf is seen in this photo. (Courtesy of the French Institute)

Rabindranath Tagore, TS Eliot, Edmond Jabès, Paul Valéry and Hermann Broch are a constant source of inspiration. Cinema also occupies an important place in his work.

The artist started traveling with his camera quite early in his life, documenting every trip to environments such as South India, Morocco, China, Alaska, Russia, Yemen, Cambodia, Italy, Germany and Austria.

She began to form travel diaries with the photos which she attached to the writings of her chosen texts. These are the artist’s stories and they serve as testimonies of travel in the same vein as Delacroix’s notebook sketched in Morocco or Frida Kahlo’s diaries.

This process accelerated and led to larger books bound by the artist herself. Today, Graf’s photographs are known worldwide for their unique chimerical quality accompanied by simplicity.

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Michael E. Marquez