Volkhan Kızıltunç’s series of photographs entitled “Last Boys in the Woods” was inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Commentaries here and elsewhere on the C&NN website are offered
to inform readers and to stimulate new thinking and debate. C&NN does not officially
endorse every statement, report or product mentioned in every commentary.