Cemre Yeşil Gönenli (TR) “HAYAL & HAKIKAT” - Helphoto 2022




These photographs depict the hands of prisoners from the early 20th century, found in the photo albums of Abdul Hamid II, the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Abdul Hamid II utilized photography as a tool for documenting the modernization of the Ottoman Empire at the start of the 20th century. A photography studio was built inside the Yıldız Palace and albums were reproduced and sent across the world as a testament to the progress of the Ottoman Empire. Abdul Hamid II himself rarely left Istanbul, but commissioned photographs so he could become acquainted with his own country that would otherwise be invisible to his eyes. Abdul Hamid II was obsessed with crime fiction and in the 25th year of his reign he ordered all murder convicts to be photographed with their hands visible in preparation for a planned amnesty. He had been moved by pseudo-scientific information he had read in a crime novel that, “any criminal with a thumb joint longer than the index finger joint is inclined to murder.” The photographs in the Hayal (Dream) section of the project show the subjects’ hands for the purpose of classification and possible amnesty. In the Hakikat (Fact) section, we see chained prisoners who are all sentenced to death and having nothing to do with the amnesty in question. Cemre Yeşil Gönenli has cropped out the faces of the subjects so their emotional state is ambiguous. The Dream of the title refers to the inmates’ desire for release and the Fact’ their actual circumstances. The fate of the individual prisoners remains unknown as there is no record of the verdict given by Abdul Hamid II after viewing the hands awaiting forgiveness. Hayal and Hakikat is dedicated to those in contemporary times who are arbitrarily detained in today’s Turkey

Cemre Yeşil is a Turkish photographer and artist living in Istanbul. In 2017, she dropped out of her practice-based PhD in London College of Communication and independently continued her PhD research project, Double Portrait, which was shortlisted in the PhotoEspaña Best Photography Book of the Year Award (2021), and was a finalist in El Premio Internacional Fotolibro FELIFA (2021). Her work has been published internationally, including in The Guardian, International Centre of Photography New York, British Journal of Photography, Colors Magazine, and 6 mois. Her book Hayal & Hakikat (2020) was the winner of PhotoEspaña Best Photography Book of the Year Award (2021), and was shortlisted in Paris Photo Aperture Photobook Awards for the Photobook of the Year Category, in the Historical Book Award in The Rencontres d’Arles (2021), and was longlisted for Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Awards (2021). She was nominated for The Foam Paul Huf Award from Foam Amsterdam (2014, 2021, and 2022), for the ING Unseen Talent Award (2016), and for Lead Awards (2016). The British Journal of Photography – Ones to Watch issue (February 2015) introduced Yeşil as one of the 25 most promising new talents in a global survey of emerging photographers. She currently lectures on photography at Falmouth University MA Photography and at Bilgi University BA VCD. She also works as a writer, curator and publisher. She is the founder of FiLBooks, a publishing house and a space dedicated to photo books and artist talks. 


Cemre Yeşil Gönenli (TR) “HAYAL & HAKIKAT” - Helphoto 2022
Cemre Yeşil Gönenli (TR) “HAYAL & HAKIKAT” - Helphoto 2022