Pale Grain experiments with the boundaries of photographs. The man behind the image-making project, Mert Sahbaz, is a contemporary photographer with a restless mind seeking to create a bridge between the world around him with his imagination. Read on to find out about Paganist—the exclusive collaboration series he created for The Loppist—and why he produces limited edition works as part of the creative process.
01. Paganist: The Exclusive Collaboration
Paganist is an ongoing series of works based on Pale Grain’s fascination with imaginary realities, ancient gods, and sacred places. Inspired by the Nordic nature and mythology, Pale Grain created Paganist exclusively for Loppist.
"I tried to be conscious of nature’s significance, and bring those feeling and thoughts into my creation process.”
Mert wanted to experience nature in its entirety, and to perceive the world as nature itself would. For this, he took exploratory trips out into the woods alone to immerse himself in his subject. “It was about taking in your surrounding. I tried to be conscious of nature’s significance, and bring those feeling and thoughts into my creation process.”
He used these trips to confront ideas about the life and death cycle, experience vastness and the trivial, follow moving light and shadows, feel different textures, and spot intricate natural patterns. Until now, Pale Grain has mostly produced individual standalone pieces. When we approached Mert, he was immediately drawn to the idea of creating a series based on a theme and detailing it as deeply as possible.
“I try to achieve something different with each creation and collaboration. This is the first time I have set a grand context to base the entire project upon. It allows me to experience a different way of thinking and production, which itself is a long-lasting experience.”
02. An attraction to rarities
Mert has always been an avid collector of antiques, fossils, and secondhand collectibles. He spoke poignantly on how he would take regular trips to his friend’s antique shop in search of interesting things to add to his burgeoning collection of curios.
“Producing limited quantities is my way of creating value for a collector who appreciates the work.”
As a creator and a collector, Mert believes that we, as humans, are imbued with a natural curiosity and interest in rarities. And producing an appealing creation in limited quantity only serves to increase its sentimental value.
I’m fascinated with collecting rarities. I love the idea that I’m only one owning something.
“Producing limited quantities is my way of creating value for a collector who appreciates the work. It’s also a way for me to push myself as a creator to produce more, knowing that I won’t be able to just to sit on one work that goes well, knowing that one day it’s going to end.”
03. From concept to hands
“Pixel perfection is secondary to the physical experience.”
The bulk of the editing may be digital, but Mert is as a fervent believer in only publishing works that make sense across different mediums. He places extreme emphasis in how the final piece is experienced in its physical form and is constantly experimenting with different types of paper and printing techniques in order to reach his goal — to create work that is impactful and appeal- ing in its printed form. “Pixel perfection is secondary to the physical experience. I love seeing how people react to each images, and see how they take your latest work and putting it beside my earlier works.“journey since, and I have learn so much since then but the road ahead remains long and I’m excited to discover more.”
"Most of my works are all digitally printed on semi-gloss ivory paper. I find the textured surface of the paper combined with the ink very appealing."
04. The journey of a self critic
As a young boy, Mert was intrigued with the idea of old things—in finding and collecting them. However, it was a year-long exchange program in Faaborg, Denmark, when he was 17 that proved to be a turning point in his path as a creator.
“It helped me become a self critic, constantly looking at what others do and what I can do to improve myself.”
“Being alone in a foreign country pushing me into thinking what I really wanted to do. Initially I wanted to study fine arts or photography, but I eventually chose art management because I thought it would be helpful for me to understand how things are created and what to do with them. It helped me become a self critic, constantly looking at what others do and what I can do to improve myself,” he said about the experience.
Being a creator is about understanding the essence of the artwork. As a creator I wanted to be able to evaluate myself, to criticize myself objectively.
While he has always been involved with creative work, from organizing video art for festivals to creating release covers for Turkish minimal techno label Sublime Port, Mert started Pale Grain with no idea that this passionproject would receive such a great response, allowing him to transform it into a full-time venture. When we asked Mert what he thought of his journey thus far and what lies in the future for Pale Grain, this what he had to say:
“Looking back, my first 2 creations under Pale Grain—The Biking Road and The Highway—are in a way symbolic to the project even though I didn’t know then. Both pieces have a starting point that seemingly stretches into the infinity. In a way I have been on that journey since, and I have learned so much since then but the road ahead remains long and I’m excited to discover more.”
05. Unexpected Connections
Growing up in Adana on the south coast of Turkey, and later living in Istanbul, Mert admitted to us that he had always yearned to be closer to nature.
The peace, serenity, and the change of pace in living was not lost on him when he finally moved to Scandinavia: first to Denmark and now Sweden. We can’t help but notice that perhaps that difference has found itself into his work—a personal style that captures serenity and a thought-provoking intensity.
When asked how Scandinavia has influenced his thinking as a creator, Mert said, “The one aspect of the Scandinavian culture that I enjoy the most is the freedom of self expression and the ability to exist as who you want to be, fuss free. It’s how society and life should be by default.”
As a foreign creator, he tells us that one of the greatest satisfactions is when collectors appreciate or relate to his work through their own experiences.
"These unexpected connections are very humbling to me as a creator.”
“There are plenty of rocks in the Swedish west coast landscape, and I’ve started using them in my recent work. Since then, people have been commenting about the rocks even though you would think that it’s a nondescript detail. We would have a conversation about it and they often go on to purchase these works because it means something to them beyond aesthetics. These unexpected connections are very humbling to me as a creator.”
With yet another collaboration under his belt, Mert’s wish is to grow Pale Grain into an art and design consultancy with its own production facilities, so he has more freedom to experiment with different production and finishing techniques.