“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

BABE #275: ÖYKÜ AVCU - Lawyer + Photographer

BABE #275: ÖYKÜ AVCU - Lawyer + Photographer


Öykü is a lawyer by day and photographer by night, weekends and whenever she can get her hands on a camera. Based out of Istanbul, Turkey, she sees the city’s best and worst qualities through her work, but loves it all the same. As a lawyer, she strives to be efficient, concise and present for her clients in the bustling, hard-to-navigate city. As an artist, she strives to evoke emotion, embrace change and connect with her audience. Öykü’s multitude of talents extends beyond her hustles — she practically taught herself how to speak and write in English, and the skill has opened up doors and cultivated many relationships near and far. Talk about a BWH.

The Basics:

Hometown: Silivri, Istanbul, Turkey
Current city: Bakırköy, Istanbul, Turkey
Alma mater: Istanbul Kultur University
Degree: Bachelor of Law
Very first job: Lawyer
Hustle: Photographer + Lawyer

The Interests:

Babe you admire and why?
Brooke Shaden, in a heartbeat. All of the things she’s been doing in the photography industry are just phenomenal. I basically grew up following Brooke’s art, I was around 16 or 17 (I’m now 28) when I first came across her on Flickr. I love how she makes me feel like I need to create my own photos every time I see a new photo from her. She’s definitely a great inspiration for both professionals and beginners.


How do you spend your free time?
Making coffee, taking care of my plants, reading, painting, drawing, researching countries to visit, visiting my mom and dog, walking around if the weather is warm (I’m a summer person!), gaming and having lots of laughs with my husband.

Favorite fictional female character? Why?
Arya Stark. She’s a girl who’d rather play with a sword than marry a knight. She doesn’t want something she can get without working for it. As the time passes by, she transforms into someone who’s very dangerous and unpredictable, and I love seeing how her character evolves.

Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Turkish coffee/Southern Comfort.

What’s something you want to learn or master?
I want to learn how to play cello, and I’d like to get better with my guitar and ukulele too.

If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
That's a hard one. I'll take my chances with Hurrem Sultan (Alexandra Lisowska). That'd be perfect.

What’s something most don’t know about you?
In 2011, Talent House managed a photo contest related to Justin Timberlake’s “In Time” movie. After weeks of voting, there were 10 finalists, and I was one of them. As a reward, my photo got exhibited during the “In Time” movie premiere in Los Angeles. I was a university student at that time and it was the biggest deal for me. I haven’t been to the United States, but my photo has! It’s something I’m very proud of it, but I was too shy to say it out loud at that time, so people still get surprised when I talk about it.

The Hustle:

Tell us about your hustle.
I became a lawyer in 2014 with hopes of changing the world. Every case I have is a puzzle for me; it's a fun process to complete step-by-step, though it does have its negative sides. I’m always exhausted; there never seems to be enough hours in the day. Istanbul is a big and complicated city, and it can take hours to catch up on trials at a courthouse. Without a car, three or four kinds of public transportation are the fastest options. If you have a car, you probably don't want to use it because you'll be stuck in the crazy Istanbul traffic. As for photography, it never feels like a job to me. I see so many sad, completely broken people as a lawyer, but in photography, there's always happiness and beautiful moments. I take and edit photos for hours and it never bores me. My clients feed me spiritually; it's more like a therapy to me. When I have my camera in my hand, nothing can stop me from having a good day.

What does your typical workday look like?
I always prepare my desk for the next day. I love being tidy about work. You'll find me getting a big cup of coffee first, checking out my to-do lists at my work-ready desk, then putting on some beautiful music, checking and replying to emails and DMs, shooting, editing photos and painting, constantly researching something new to try, and forcing my husband to help me to get it done. I also try to go out in the evenings to get some fresh air, even though I’m usually tired from spending so much time on the computer. I’m trying to make a new habit out of walking and feeling the sunshine.

Have you always had a passion for art and photography?
Yes. My mother used to paint around me when I was a child, so I guess my passion for art comes from my very early childhood. I used to paint everywhere: floors, walls, wherever I could reach at that time. Then, my mother realized that I had talent, so she bought me some equipment. I painted for a whole decade. When I was around 17 or 18, I remember thinking drawing something I created in my mind made me feel so different, in a good way. I was full of passion, and then I came across the artwork of the amazing artists of Flickr, and thought that to be able to “freeze the moment” sounded fabulous—so I wanted to give it a try. It was love at “first click.”


How would you describe your artistic style?
My style was fully experimental, at first. One day I came up with something colorful, full of hope and love; the next it was full of anger and grief, and moody. Over the years, my main theme transformed into something dark, melancholic at times and even scary. I enjoy working on conceptual and fine-art pieces and telling my stories through them. I used to write long descriptions under my photos, like blog posts, talking about what’s on my mind, why I created something like it and such. Then dear people who follow my work started to create their own stories with their comments, standing together with mine. I love how someone says they remember their childhood because of the location I chose, or how they felt powerful and inspired because of my words and colors. I first create for my own being because art is a very personal thing, but when you look at it from a different point of view, it’s just so good when it’s shared with others. You never know how and when you touch people’s hearts and souls. There’s not a better feeling than a complete stranger saying I made them feel stronger, happier, inspired through my artwork. Honestly, I wouldn’t change that feeling for the world.

What inspired you to pursue more photography and practice less law? How are you navigating this?
To be honest, I'm still trying to navigate it; I'm kind of emotional about it. I spent a decade of my life working to be a lawyer and make a career of it. It was a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, stressful days. That process changed me and made me explore new things about myself. It's not something I could just easily walk away from. It's a way of living, it's something I’m used to, no matter how much I might not love it. It's familiar. About making a career change: I must say, it's a hard process. I felt confident at first, but you can't just make things right in a minute. It will definitely take some time. Don't let it make you feel weak, just be aware of your steps. I'm taking baby steps now and it's as scary as it is beautiful.

How often do you experience creative burnouts?
Not too often. I like spending time alone — it clears my mind and soul. When I have a creative burnout, it’s mostly because I have distractions around me and that means I can’t concentrate on what’s on my mind. If it becomes too hard on me, I just put my cameras, laptop and any other equipment away. I recommend taking a little time for yourself when that happens. I really believe it will help you more than trying to do something you can’t concentrate on, and you’ll get your work done faster.


What’s your approach to growing your business?
I don't believe in “likes”. No matter how many times you pay and promote yourself on Instagram, in the end it's your happy client who recommends you to other potential clients. Don't underestimate the power of a smile, a good conversation and hard work. If you take your time to improve your skills and get better on what you're doing, things will work out eventually. To be good at being your own boss, you should learn about time-management. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Which times are you most productive in a day? When should you take a break from working? Answering basic questions like these saved me a lot of time and energy.

What is the art scene like in Istanbul?
There are countless art galleries of modern and traditional art in Istanbul. In the end, Istanbul itself is the art. You walk around for five minutes and see the most iconic historical buildings or landscapes. It just depends on where you see it from. It’s been a capital of three empires in history, which makes it so rich in culture, leading to many kinds of art. Istanbul is also very photogenic; it combines two continents, it even has its own islands. It’s a very big, complex and sometimes scary city to live in, to be honest. Most people in Istanbul have a love-hate relationship with the life here. I am one of them. I hate it so much and get away, then I count the days to come back. In the end, like they say: “They call it chaos. We call it home.”


How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
Oh, it's too hard to be a woman in any kind of industry. First of all, I think bullying behaviors and harassment are the main problems in any kind of workplace, and it's a really prevalent practice in Turkey, unfortunately. It’s really heartbreaking when you get interviewed for a job and your boss-to-be says he would buy you a house if you agreed to "work" for him. This is so disrespectful, and all women should stand up for themselves in these kind of situations. I know this is also scary, but if we don't do anything about it, it will never change. To create more equal, uplifting and well-paying spaces for women, we should start by treating our woman-colleagues respectfully and making an effort to build good relationships with them. We should unite together and be the change itself.

What does your approach to work-life balance look like?
I used to be a person who comes home after work and still talked about it. Needless to say, it caused a lot of stress. My advice is: when you get home, stop talking about work—no matter what. When you stop talking about it, you slowly start to think less about it at home, so you can finally have some quality time with your family and loved ones. If you use a spare phone for work (and if it’s possible), turn it off at the weekend. Weekdays can be treated like weekends; have some fun on some of those days, too! It may be watching TV shows or going to your favorite bar, but no matter what, be aware that weekdays count.

Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Women are amazing multitaskers. I don’t know how to put this into words, exactly, but as a woman I can feel it in my bones. A woman is able to have a main job, a side job, be a mom and wife at the same time—this is not even a start. I want to say to all the babes: Never settle for less than you deserve. Always remember you’re capable of doing anything you want. Don’t ever let others tell you otherwise.

Connect with Öykü:

Instagram / Instagram (Photography) / Flickr / Email

This interview has been condensed and edited.
All photos property of Öykü Avcu.

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