Having worked for Turkish cinema since the ‘60s for about half a century undertaking various responsibilities ranging from laboratory assistant to cinematographer, Ertunç Şankay resembles a phoenix rising from its ashes. His career is so comprehensive as to encompass black and white celluloids of the ‘60s when 200 films were made each year, the transition to colour, the period of sex films, the blockbuster Hababam Sınıfı film series which debuted in Arzu film and ten of which he had shot; the decline of cinema, the art house films of the ‘80s, the debut feature of Demirkubuz, the second film by Zaim, and ‘90s’ boxoffice successes. His biography, in a way, indicates the phases and deadlocks Turkish cinema has gone through and the solutions it has found according to time and ground, or its congestions. Let me first talk about my own experience: We began to shoot Elephants and Grass in mid-January in the year 2000. Şenkay, being the film’s director of photography, shot it in thirty-three days. Of course, another cinematographer could have done the same tough job similarly. However there are many people around me who is not certain whether it would be of the same quality as Ertunç Şenkay had maintained. This reminder does not mean that our collaboration for the film was a bed of roses from the beginning till the end. Şenkay had reached his current mindset coming as a self-educated apprentice from the tradition of Turkish cinema, which, to quote his own words, “regarded only a cinematography that is clean, clear and bright all over as valuable”.
A successful cinematography comprises of skilfully bringing together mechanical and technical methods with subtle visual faculties. Intuition, swift comprehension, the determination of anticipation and creativity are the essentials of the job. Şenkay framed our fifty years, our time and place through trial and error, not being afraid to make mistakes, his determination to take pleasure in his job and the magic of light. We thank this phoenix surrounded by ashes, for his efforts, will to learn, persistency and his ability to bend.