Antenna is a project by Can Geylan and Stijn Hoebeke who have too much in common to do things apart. Even though both started dwelling in photography long before they met, Antenna came to life during their initial long distance relationship as a way of communicating through pictures, where one would share a picture from Turkey, and the other would answer from Belgium. And since then, the project has evolved into an outlet for them to share what they capture together.
- How did you guys met?
Can: I think it was 2015. I had just ended a 5 year long relationship and my friends bought me a paid tinder account, which allows you to swipe all over the world. So I did that and even swiped in Antarctica. There was only one guy and we didn’t match, which hurt my ego a bit. But then I started swiping in places where I was planning to do my master so that’s basically how it all happened for me.
Stijn: I was in London back then and we basically matched there. We just chatted at first. And for a long time we really didn’t think we would end up together because I wasn’t really looking for a relationship nor he was planning to come to Belgium at that time. And that made us open up to each other more than we would to a potential date. It resulted in me visiting Can in Turkey after chatting 9 months and since then we’ve become one of those symbiotic couples and it’s been beautiful.
- What was it like growing up in Turkey and how’d you end up in Belgium?Can: As a gay kid it’s like walking on a minefield without having a detonator or even a thing that tells you where the mines are on your way. Everyone, and I mean everyone including the gay community, reminds you to act macho, and tells you to show no signs of femininity by bullying you into it or just giving you small remarks. So it felt like I had two options. I was either going to chose to be part of that misogynistic culture and suppress myself, play in darkness and comply with all the heteronormative roles I was given and hate myself a bit or I was going to go all the way against it and be open to everyone around me and end up hating everyone else. I chose the first one until I was 18, then I chose the second which led me to apply for a master in Europe and living with Stijn in the end.
Stijn: Well, compared to Can’s experience mine is quite different but probably not so different from other Europeans.
- Can you tell us a bit about your background?Stijn: I studied film in college and now work as a video editor. But I’ve been also been DJing and organizing parties for more than 10 years. And since film school I have been taking pictures as a hobby. Now it’s becoming something else and it’s nice to watch it evolve.
Can: I used to study environmental engineering until I got bored and got a degree in literature but that hasn’t helped me in any sense so far so I’m trying to learn computer programming at the moment. But while I am trying to figure out what to do with my life I always kept a camera with me, cause somehow I always felt the least artistic member of my family and needed to compensate that in my own way.
- How’d you develop your photography style? Did it come as a natural outcome of being part of a specific subculture?It’s still too early to say that we have a distinctive style at the moment. Carrying a camera with you most of the time, you take a lot of pictures and end up choosing few. And as a duo, we both look at things from different angles, and challenge ourselves to try new approaches and eventually pick several from a roll that catch our attention. And the factors in that selection is so subjective and ever changing that it’s hard to tell what are the boxes that a picture needs to tick for us. And in the end if other people see some pattern or stylistic unity in what we do than that’s definitely unintentional.
- What role does identity play in your work?There’s something about identity politics that is a bit sinister for us. Although we are aware that it helps to show the power dynamics, and make people see things clear, somehow it feels like it doesn’t bring a substantial difference in the inequality that it addresses. Yes representing underrepresented people creates a space that is more inclusive where people feel like they have a place in society but which society, and which spaces are those, we keep asking ourselves all the time.
So yeah, the fact that our photography sometimes deals with queerness has little to do with our and model’s identity and representing that identity. I mean we would still be taking pictures of our friends, families, hook ups or strangers that we find beautiful even if there won’t be a place to share them online or in real life. Social spaces are bound to change, and internet is also one of those spaces. As queer people we are always reminded that what’s given us can be taken back anytime, without a warning like Tumblr which used to be safe heaven to share our work or gay prides w happening in Turkey which have been recently banned and people who try to gather for it are being attacked with police. But as queers we’ll always find cracks and corners to exist and share what we love with others. It’s inevitable as it is inevitable for us to capture that.
- What draws you to focus on counter culture, sexuality, personal politics and underground music in your work? Is it because that’s what you identify with, and a space you’re navigating within yourself - or is it to explore something else?Can: Growing up in Belgium Stijn had access to Mapplethorpe’s and other queer photographers books at his local library basically. When you’re 14 and see such images on the wooden shelves, you’re naturally drawn to it and the rest is history. I spent my coming of age in Turkey, where possessing non-heterosexual images is considered illegal and government bans on lgbtq imagery are part of the daily life. So you either navigate through all that and find loopholes to reach those images or create your own where you put them in hidden folders on your computer. That’s why the sexuality part is prevalent in our photography. We’re also trying to contribute to the queer archiving tradition so that future generations would have something to look at if they want to.
And nightlife is part of our life because we organize parties ourselves and enjoy spending hours and days with friends after a long week to feel like children every now and then, when looking ugly, sweaty, stupid doesn’t matter, and all you do is laugh, dance and get closer. During those moments some of it feels too precious to let go, or we’re too scared to forget that’s why the camera is there.
- Do you have any anecdote you could share with us?
The story of how we come up with the name Antenna is a bit of a secret that only few people know.
- Who or what inspires you?Anything that’s not home, a bit of sunlight, quirky things and carnivalesque beings.
- Would you consider your work as autobiographical?I think anything we do is autobiographical since it reflects us as a person at a certain time in a certain place. What we liked back then, who did we spent time with, where we were and all that.
- How would you describe Brussels nightlife?It’s definitely beautiful, small enough to not to be invaded by intruders, big enough to make you feel like the world is not so bad of a place.
- Do you see yourself doing other types of photography? Any projects in mind?
I think since we’re new at sharing our work to the public, we’ll continue doing what we’ve been doing a bit more but there are some talks about trying different media like middle format cameras or video cameras while also investing more time in making zines or prints with the stuff we already have.