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LAST BOYS IN THE WOODS: A Photographer Explores Nature-Deficit Disorder Through Art

About the Author

Volkan Kızıltunç is a photographer who lives in Istanbul. Since 2009 Volkan has worked as a research assistant in Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Department of Photography and FUAM, Photography Research Center. In 2013, Volkan was selected as the 2013 Turkish Winner of ESSL ART AWARD CEE as well as the Vienna Insurance Group Special Exhibition Invitation Winner. In 2015, Volkan won Akbank Contemporary Artists Prize with his video work "Typologies of Memories.” Volkan is a co-founder and co-director of an independent art space, TOZ Artist Run Space. He is also the coordinator of Istanbul Photobook Festival in Turkey.

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Volkhan Kızıltunç’s series of photographs entitled “Last Boys in the Woods” was inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woodsand its discussion of nature-deficit disorder. The photos depict urban people in various natural environments. Struck by the series, we wanted to learn more about the artist behind the images and the message he hoped to convey. The following is our interview with Volkhan Kızıltunç.


Tell us why you decided to entitle this photography series “Last Boys in the Woods.”

In June of 2013 in Turkey, I actively participated in the “Gezi Park Protests,” which began as a protest against the government’s decision to demolish a small park in downtown Istanbul. During those 14 days of the occupation of the park, a group of friends and I began to discuss the idea of our lost connection with nature. Istanbul is a huge city with a population of almost 16 million people. It can sometimes feel as if the whole city is under construction. When everywhere you look are gray concrete buildings and a lack of nature, you can feel emotional pain. For those of us in that group, we understood that the small park (Gezi Park) was our last castle—the representative of nature for us. But in the end, they evicted us.

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“Last Child in the Woods'” in Turkish

One week after the protests ended, I traveled to Latvia to participate in a photography workshop led by an American photographer, Todd Hido. The workshop was held in Pelci, a small northeastern European village close to a small town called Kuldiga. The village was unbelievably green. Being there was like being in the middle of the forest. So coming to the experience with the mindset of an urban person from a city of over 16 million people, I became paralyzed by the local people’s relationship with nature. I thought of Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” as I watched the village boys around us swimming in the natural ponds, hanging in the forest, fishing with the worms, playing with their dogs. And I remembered my childhood. It occurred to me that these boys must be the “Last Boys in The Woods.”  Inspired by these events, I created this project.

 

 

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What message do you hope the series conveys?

I’ll be happy if my photographs influence other people to think about the importance of the relationship between nature and children.

I hope to provoke people to go out camping, or experiencing nature with their kids in other ways.

What was your experience with nature as a child?

I was born in 1976 in the capital city of Turkey, Ankara, and grew up living in different large cities. My father is a radiologist and my mom is an architect. Their parents are also from other large cities, so I didn’t have any relatives living in rural areas and didn’t grow up surrounded by nature as those children do in the village of Pelci. But because my generation is a kind of transition generation, we were different from children today. There was more of a balance between nature and technology. Throughout my childhood, I had contact with nature as we spent a great deal of our time as kids playing outside, going camping on the weekends, cycling around, climbing trees. At the same time, I enjoyed playing computer games with my Commodore 64 computer.

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Your series “Last Boys in the Woods” depicts urban people in natural environments. Why was this an important subject to you?

In my previous projects, I was mostly interested in cityscapes or buildings and was making more observations related to cities. For these projects, I was interested in looking for traces of human civilization in nature. I studied archaeology before photography, though I never pursued archaeology professionally. And when I look at my earlier projects, I understand that searching for the traces of the artifacts of our civilization and making observations is like a visual archeology

As we change, projects and interests change. Later, I became more interested in nature and people. In particular, I believe nature is important for the creativity of children. Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods” was very influential for me in understanding those connections. I don’t have a child yet but, when I do, I want to see my child playing and spending time in nature.

Do artists have a role now in connecting people, especially children, to nature?

I think an artist has the potential to influence people– especially children— to become aware of the importance of nature.

With storybooks, photo stories, installations, plays, films, paintings, and documentaries, we can get the attention of adults and children to connect with nature. And we need to get the attention of the children. Our children have to act differently than us to protect nature. Our earth needs urgent care and only our children can change it.

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Photo(s) credit: Volkhan Kızıltunç

Additional Reading & Resources

View Volkhan’s photos and learn more about him here.

Read about Volkhan’s recent show in Turkey.

Art Exhibit Aims to Reconnect Man With Nature in Mercer County

Robert Bateman Centre to Promote More Than Artist’s Work

THE HYBRID MIND: The More High-Tech Education Becomes, The More Nature Our Children Need


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1 Comment

  1. I could not agree more that there needs to be an emphasis placed on interaction between children and nature, not only for the Earth’s benefit, but for our children’s benefit as well. I’m not sure if you are familiar with nature-based learning, or nature-based schools, but this type of teaching style has proven to help develop the cognitive and motor functions of young children. A common example of a school that uses this style that I like to point to is Harmony Early Learning’s Sippy Downs location. I wanted to ask your opinion and see if you thought that by creating more nature-based schools such as these, if we could foster a better relationship between children and nature?

    Reply

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