Searching for higher ground with Turkey’s 212 magazine

by Grace Wang in April 2017
Art & designFashion & stylePhotography

212 is an imposing magazine. Physically, it’ll take up a quarter of your office desk, and as you carefully lift its pages, its larger-than-life photography consumes your whole attention. The publication from Istanbul has the type of mind-arousing stories that’s best chewed on slowly at the coffee table — and that’s not just because you’ll have trouble carrying it around with you. (Trust me, it’s huge!)

Returning for a third issue, the theme this time is ‘High’: drone photography and a solar-powered aircraft play into the literal sense of the word; an interview with Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens, brings a philosophical angle. Then, there’s the story on space dogs — stray animals that became a symbol of sacrifice during the 1995 Space Race between the Soviet Union and the US.

Editor-in-chief Heval Okçuoğlu (below) was in London to pick up a Creativepool award for the magazine recently, so we sat down with her to find out more about this issue.


Tell us about issue three’s theme, ‘High’.
The theme of our first two issues were on the heavier side, so we thought we could decide on a lighter subject this time. It’s also because Spring and Summer are coming as well. We did a lot of brainstorming with my publisher and we wanted to explore the notion of being high — not just as in smoking and getting high (though there is a feature on modern drug cultures), but also like in evolution, elevation, and being a better version of yourself. You can talk about many things, from body or mind expansion, to psychology and geography. As we gathered all of these different subjects together, we realised that this is making us feel good as well.


I saw that there was a story about the first solar-powered airplane (above) — are there other features you’re particularly excited about?
We managed to interview the historian and author Yuval Noah Harari, who has this amazing bestseller book called Sapiens. His ideas and his research are so relevant to our time, about where we’re coming from, why we are the way we are, where human evolution is going with all the technology, and what we will achieve. His answers and his whole outlook to this bigger picture of being human is very exciting, so that’s one feature we’re very satisfied with.


What did you want to find out through interviewing him?
Well his book gives you a totally grandiose perspective of all this history, of how we came to be; he says the power of being human is that we’re the only kind of living creature that can organise in one conscious and achieve so many improvements. It’s very meaningful to be able to pull back and think about the future as well.

You’ve spoken about the difficulty in “getting back on the horse” with everything going on in Turkey politically. I wonder if this theme, like you said, helped you look at things from a bigger perspective?
I guess, from a certain context, yeah. When things are really troubling, you do things to get your mind off it. What we do basically becomes a distraction in these circumstances, and of course it has an optimistic side to it that we wanted to pursue because we’ve got to keep going.


A lot of publishers say that the third issue is when they find their voice. What was it like for you?
From my experience, doing the third was easier. The first was a complete monster, because you’re setting everything up and you have so much to worry about. And the second one is how you set the structure, so with those two in place, the third becomes an experience where you have more time to enjoy doing what you’re doing. I think the voice is certainly finding itself, but I don’t think it’s really, really there yet, though I’m positive it’s going in a very clear direction.

What are the things you learned from doing the third issue that you didn’t know in the first or second?
Hmm, that’s a good question. What I can say is that when you give people a very vague theme, they come up with really interesting ideas. When you just give a noun or a notion or a feeling, not just saying something really square or black and white, they really come up with great ideas that change the perspective and teaches you lot of things — it becomes more enjoyable.


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