Mert Alas is spending his time in quarantine doing what he does best: creating hyperreal yet wonderfully transportive photographs. Except this time, the master lensman – who usually works with his business partner, Marcus Piggott – has not been shooting. Instead Alas orchestrated a social media call-out, urging his followers to submit pictures for him to edit and showcase in his Instagram gallery. The response, he tells British Vogue, was highly emotional.
“I was worried I would get a bunch of selfies,” says Alas, who wanted to make his concept – to create art, not an act of self-love – as clear as possible. “I made a pact to only use pictures that had substance or emotional value. It wasn’t about being a celebrity or a model, it was about exploring an idea that was bigger than themselves.” Over 40 hours and, admittedly, one too many self-portraits later, Alas says he received “a big repertoire of hope”.
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QUARANTINE DAYS 1 ❤️ i have been editing for the past 2 days and there were up to 2 thousand photos ! first of all you guys all rock for taking the time to make a dream and inspiring eachother and second what matters is we all tried! we all got away from the bad news and vibes and felt creative even for a little time . from nurses to students to mothers to models to artists to chefs to painters THANKS GUYS ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️ #letsart
“I felt positivity,” he says of the reaction to the ideas he fed budding photographers and high-profile friends alike – such as “angels falling down” and “vampires in love”. “People might be stuck at home, but they are still feeling brave and strong. For 15 minutes they could be someone else and escape from the news cycle.”
© Mert Alas
Alas believes that the industry perhaps lost its sense of community over the past two years. “We’ve become self-loving creatures, who care about their diets, workouts and dogs more than each other. I want to try and un-selfish the ‘me, me, me’ generation.”
As a world-renowned artist, he is the first to admit that fame is responsible for breeding selfishness. “I have acted spoilt,” he admits. “It has been good for me not to worry about my own work and to take care of someone else’s. I’ve had time to reflect on the good and bad things about myself.”
© Mert Alas
His notion that artists can be “givers and sharers” has already been put into practice. While in quarantine, he has been baking two or more banana and pecan cakes a day for friends who have contracted coronavirus. Connecting with friends from a decade ago has also been high on the agenda. “I now realise how much I lost contact with reality,” he says. “I almost never talk to anyone anymore.” As the “broadcaster of [his] own life”, Alas is positive that this period of reflection will have an impact on his future work, but, at the moment, he’s too busy thinking about how he can inspire others to ponder on it too much.