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Kerim Okten – In Memory of My Brother

By Tolga Bozoglu

On April 10 this year, epa photographer Kerim Okten died in a tragic motorcycle accident. Kerim’s friend and colleague, Tolga Bozoglu, remembers him:

A protestor is hit by water sprayed from a water cannon during clashes in Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey, 11 June 2013.  epa / Kerim Okten

A protestor is hit by water sprayed from a water cannon during clashes in Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey, 11 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

I met Kerim for the first time in a Turkish newspaper called Yeni Yuzyil* (New Century) in 1994. When we first started, we were both young and inexperienced. All the photographers in the newspaper had many years of experience, but were merciless in their behavior towards us. Whenever we carried out an assignment they always screened our films before us, ridiculed our photos, then threw the films in the trash bin. Instead of weakening us, this attitude and treatment gave us more energy to work even harder and constantly improve ourselves. We were always willing to go out for news items nobody else cared for in the newspaper. This hostile environment brought us closer together. We started supporting each other in everything we did.

A protestor runs through tear gas during clashes at Taksim Square Istanbul, Turkey on 11 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

A protestor runs through tear gas during clashes at Taksim Square Istanbul, Turkey on 11 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

Kerim had an extraordinary talent in photography. When you worked with him, even if you had the exact same equipment in the exact same situations, he would come back with totally different photos and frames that you would not have noticed before. Which left you wondering “How on earth did he do that?”

A masked rioter is seen in front of a burning car in Hackney, North London, Britain, 08 August 2011. epa / Kerim Okten

A masked rioter is seen in front of a burning car in Hackney, North London, Britain, 08 August 2011. epa / Kerim Okten

But he knew that it wasn’t enough to be talented, you also had to keep educating and bettering yourself. Kerim was always open to learn and above all he wanted to teach and pass on his knowledge to anyone eager to learn. He had so much intellectual capacity and used this ability in his photos. Because of this his photos had different meanings to different viewers. He was so good at telling a story in his photography even if it was an ordinary, standard assignment. In fact, for him there was no such thing as a standard situation.

A protestor balances on top of a pole wearing a 'Guy Fawkes' mask and waving a Turkish flag with a Mustafa Kemal Ataturk portrait on it during an anti-government demonstration at Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Turkey, 09 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

A protestor balances on top of a pole wearing a ‘Guy Fawkes’ mask and waving a Turkish flag with a Mustafa Kemal Ataturk portrait on it during an anti-government demonstration at Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Turkey, 09 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

Kerim taught me so many things and he was my best friend. He never hurt anybody or said anything bad in his life. He was always cheerful and spread positive energy around him. I do miss him so much.

The author, Tolga Bozoglu (L) and Kerim Okten in Istanbul, Turkey on 21 November 2009. epa / Diego Azubel

The author, Tolga Bozoglu (L) and Kerim Okten in Istanbul, Turkey on 21 November 2009. epa / Diego Azubel

*Yeni Yuzyil was a Turkish newspaper published from 1994 to 1998.

A selection of Kerim’s best photographs can be found here.

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