NYFA photography alumna Sinem Yazici is no stranger to success. As her interview with Asli Pelit illustrates, Sinem was a successful ad agency director before the age of 30 in her homeland of Turkey. This alone is an impressive feat, not least of all because she’s a woman, but more impressive still is her decision to leave her profession and start from scratch as an aspiring photographer.
As a NYFA photography student in New York she was able to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion photographer, proving that it’s truly never too late to pursue your dreams. Her dedication to the craft has quickly made her one of the rising stars in men’s fashion photography and while she has changed careers, her determination and success remains unmuted.
She recently sat down with us to discuss her experience at NYFA, her passion for New York City and men’s fashion photography.
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Sinem and wish her continued success in her endeavors.
Below you can find her full interview with Asli. Note: the views and opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily reflect those of the New York Film Academy.
New York – Studio Washington
Interviewer: Asli Pelit Guest: Sinem Yazici
Asli: New York is a difficult city to be successful or to live in. To be successful is even more difficult. To leave your life behind you and start over again and even start a totally new career, which is photography that you have never done before also as a woman, how did you decide to come to New York?
Sinem: Of course! I should tell you a little bit about my life before I answer this question. I was in the advertising business. For about 15 years I worked for a big international agency and two of the biggest companies in Turkey. When I became a director at my company I was 29. My goal had been to become a director before I turned 30 years old. After I reached my goal, I started asking myself, “Ok what is going to happen now? What is my next goal or target?” because I always set goals and targets for myself in life. When I started asking myself these questions I realized that I did not want to work in advertising anymore. I was so tired, and felt like I had been working for 30 years: never ending meetings, writing back and forth, working on the weekends. I remember that some days I was working 20 hours a day. At the time that I asked myself these questions, I already had an interest in art and photography. While I had never been the type of person to walk around with a camera everywhere I had been in the photo studio a lot and had worked with photographers because of my job in advertising. So I said to myself, “Why don’t I do this job? I would love to do this! What can I do about it?” One of my clients was a photographer. I called him my brother, Kerim Sandiman. I went to him and said “Kerim can you take me as an assistant to work for you? I don’t want money. I just want to learn what you are doing.” He said, “My dear Sinem, you have to take a class first.” So I said “ok,” and I started going to a class instructed by Muhammer Yatmaz, who is a photography teacher. I loved his classes and I had a great time. I completed two levels. I started taking pictures of my friends and family and I was enjoying it. I told myself I had to educate myself more about photography. I decided to go to NY because Advertising business was almost done for me. When I started doing this, I was up and down and I couldn’t decide what to do but I didn’t stay home and do nothing, I kept learning about photography. I came to NY and took a program at the New York Film Academy. The program was extremely fun and for years I had been dying to live in New York City. This period in my life was fun and I made a lot of good friends. I was stopping people in the street and telling them “ I am sorry, are you a model? Can I take your photograph?”
Asli: Yes, it is a classic NY story.
Sinem: I took a lot of pictures in NYC and then I went back to Turkey. I started working this time with Tamer Yilmaz, who is a professional photographer and my client. I started working as his assistant and editor. I got a chance to see the real fashion world when I worked with him. When I started taking pictures, I knew I wanted to be a fashion photographer, and mostly I wanted to photograph men’s fashion. My advertising background taught me to focus on one thing and do your best. I told myself that this was my goal, and I wanted to focus solely on being a photographer. I am really enjoying what I do. I worked one year with Tamer and slowly, slowly started missing NY and started wondering if I should go back. I decided to go back. It was a really tough decision but I told myself this, “If I do something really good in one year, I will give myself one more year, but if I cannot do anything, at the end of the year I will go back and continue my photography career in Turkey”. I came to NY on a tourist visa and I had to leave the country every six months. After the first six months, everything went very well. I realized that I had not done a portfolio because I was taking pictures of my friends and family. I started working with professional models, and while I was doing this I submitted everything that I had done and sent my photography everywhere. All of a sudden I started seeing my photos all around and set-up two or three photo shoots a week. That was unbelievable and I started to have a good network of models, agents, hair and makeup artists. I saw that everything was going very well and decided to do my own portfolio. When I did the portfolio, I decided to try to get an artist visa and I was able to get it two years ago. Now I am working legally, I have my clients, and everything is going well but NY is a tough city. There are always ups and downs. I have one more year and we will see after that.
Asli: When I look at your industry from the outside, men have all the good positions. Do think that women in this industry are behind men or are they equal?
Sinem: Openly, I cannot say that they are equal. There are a lot of successful women photographers but when I look at the top 10, 70 or 80% are male. As someone who wants to be in the men’s fashion photography business, I’m pushing my luck because the business is already male dominated. There are a lot of gay photographers in this business. As a woman photographer, I am trying to survive. Being a woman, I believe gives me an advantage. The feedback that I am getting from my models and agents is that there is a difference as to how a gay male photographer sees a male model and a woman photographer sees a male model. I believe this minor difference makes my work unique.
Asli: And this gives you an advantage.
Sinem: Yes, yes, yes.
Asli: Generally, when I look at the world and we talk about women’s rights, human rights and women doing two jobs at the same time – on one side they have a family, and at the same time try to have a career – do you think there is anything that has to change or do you believe that this idea gives women a chance at a higher position at work? Do you have any advice that you would give women?
Sinem: Clearly, until this time, I was able to accomplish this as a CEO, but I believe I got tired. That was the reason I stopped my career. When I look at successful women’s lives as a CEO or Executive level, they have a great family life. This shows how strong we are already. You are a mom at home but you are a CEO or boss at work. When I search their personality, the successful ones always listen to their brain, not their heart. We, as women are very emotional and when we leave the emotions on the side we become equal with men. Men do not work with their emotions. I experienced this 15 years and the last six or seven years, I experienced it a different way. I believe that if women leave their emotion on the side there is nothing that can stop them. They can do anything. That is the only advice I can give. Other than that, we are already strong and powerful.
Asli: I know that two years will go by quickly, but I hope that you stay here longer and continue your career here. What is your goal now in your career?
Sinem: Hmm, I want to be in the top ten. You know, there is the top ten in the world. There is already a Turkish photographer in this top ten, Mert. I am very proud of him, he is my idol. I hope to reach his level. This is a big dream for me. If I do reach his level, I will be the happiest person in the world. Even if I cannot, I would be very proud if people are discussing the work of a woman Turkish photographer. I don’t want this just for myself, I want to represent my country. We have a lot of problems in Turkey right now and when people hear this type of story they get happy. This would be my other goal if I cannot be very famous. This is my plan for the next couple of years. I don’t know what I am going to do after that, we will see.
Asli: We will see, thank you very much.
Sinem: I appreciate it
Asli: I wish you success.
Sinem: Thank you very much.