Rütte Photography Group

Orhan Cem Çetin

Editor note: During the preparation of this issue, we sent the same questions -with several categories- to all organizations that we interviewed. The UZ Group and Orhan Cem Çetin from Rütte Photography Group preferred to write up texts in a different format that consist of their answers rather than an interview. 

The Booklet of IFSAK 8. İstanbul Photography Days (p.8), event announcement (1992)

Rütte Photography Group was established in the late 1980s by Orhan Cem Çetin, Reha Akçakaya, Tayfun Özel, Kaan Çaydamlı, Sedef Antay, Hadiye Cangökçe, and Çetin Şan, who were looking for alternative means of expression in photography. 

At that period, photography culture in Turkey was messy, unserious, and unstable, particularly because of the lack of institutions and criticism. Certain prominent people and amateur associations supposedly worked up theoretic debates. The most significant conflict was the contrast that can be summarized as "experimental photography vs documentary photography", which, although it seems meaningless today, lighted a fire under photographers. On the experimental photography side, especially Şahin Kaygun and Ahmet Öner Gezgin, and later Nazif Topçuoğlu and I became targets of this tension. 

On the opposite side, Gültekin Çizgen was writing bitter critics at every opportunity, and the fans of Ara Güler and Sabit Kalfagil were blowing up photographers who produce works other than classical instant photography. 

In this environment, forming groups was inevitable, and a bunch of photography groups showed up. When I think about now, I cannot describe what a photography group was. I think it is something like today's initiatives or collectives. Well, it is not easy to define them either.

At that period, I was someone who specialized in the darkroom processes, worked professionally in the field but had not yet held a personal exhibition. I was unknown to many people. 

I was producing the Familiara series, and showing my friends these works which were in the coloured darkroom printing format that I developed from the painted paper negatives.  

In those days, gatherings were held at Ahmet Öner Gezgin's home that photographers working "experimental" came together and attempted to create a front was discussed. I was invited, too. We met with people who I mentioned above during these meetings. We all lived in the Anatolian Side of İstanbul. After those meetings, our discussions continued on our way to go Kadıköy together. Day by day, we have warmed towards each other, and we decided that we had similar motivations. We thought that acting together, being in solidarity with each other would be good for us. 

The name of the group was determined as Rütte. It was a word that did not have any meaning, which I made up from nowhere. We hoped it would make sense over time. The Latin phrase "Habet et musca splenem", which is written in a story I once read became our motto. I had read that it means "Even a fly has a spleen". In ancient times, the spleen was believed to be an organ of joy, laughter and humour; just as the heart was an organ of love. In other words, even the flies have a sense of humour and know how to laugh. We were saying that let's be relaxed, let's not be tense, aggressive, not make art with sullen faces, and let's have some fun. 

We believed in activism, individuality, authenticity and diversity. In our manifesto, we emphasized that we came together not to resemble each other, but to differ from.

Perhaps independence can be mentioned in this context. Not to belong to any camp, to do something just because you cannot stop doing it, to be self-responsible, and also not to take an oath of allegiance. 

Everyone's style was very different from each other. The common thing was more about our complaints and the fact that everyone was forced to be a stereotype. For that reason, we did quite extraordinary, provocative and funny works. The two most influential works were our anti-contest Nasıl Oluyor da Böyle Oluyor (1989) and the theatrical, musical improvised multivision-show Emprovision (1992).


Then the group was dismissed. In the manifesto where we announced Rütte, we had already stated that when the reasons that led us to come together disappear, Rütte would become dysfunctional and at some point, we would let out. 

When the group was dissolved, some of us remained to their productions. And some, like Kaan and Çetin, founded &:45 Publishing House with a similar instinct. They continued to use Rütte's logo in their books. 

Afterwards, I became careful to not to be a part of any photographic group or similar formation. Difficulties in decision making, the fact that having mutual decisions are "least common denominator", the fact that no one is completely happy with them was deterrent for me. We did collaborative works with Hadiye Cangökçe for a while after the dissolution of Rütte in the 1990s but decided to continue individually due to similar problems. Today I prefer to collaborate with non-photographers and be part of temporary groups. That seems like a more complementary and independent option for me.


(Cover image: A detail from the exhibition poster, RÜTTE 1. National Photography Contest, "Nasıl oluyor da böyle oluyor?" [1989])