The Photographer

Bikem Ekberzade (born in Istanbul, Turkey, 1971) is a Turkish multi-media journalist, photojournalist and documentary photographer.

After her high school education in Istanbul, she went to the United States where she received a bachelor’s degree in Management from Boston University. During her studies she worked on development projects for NGOs such as Oxfam America and has worked on two summits for the World Economic Forum. In 1992 she completed her internship in London with John F. Chown & Associates, specializing in privatization in post-communist economies. Upon graduation she continued to work with Oxfam America, first on development and implementation of fundraising projects, and later as part of the production team at the Video Unit where her team has completed several educational video documentaries on sustainable development and women’s empowerment in third world countries.

In 1995 Bikem went back to Boston University, this time to complete her master’s degree at the College of Communications in the field of Broadcast Journalism. She worked for CNN Financial News (CNNfn) in New York City as an intern during her master’s program, and was later hired by CNN Southeast Bureau in Atlanta as a production assistant to help out with 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Her post was later extended to CNN International assignment desk.

Aside from CNN, during her graduate studies and up until 1998 Bikem has worked as a photojournalist for print and wire services such as the Boston Phoenix, the Associated Press, The New York Times, and Newsweek.

Among her early documentary work is a 22 minute video documentary about the glamorous stage life of three drag queens, rightfully titled DRAG (a Boston Medcalf Awards Nominee.)

With the start of the Kosovo crisis Bikem moved back to Turkey to work as a freelance photographer for international media, covering the refugee flow and military maneuvers at the Albania-Kosovo-Macedonia triangle. She later shifted focus to other regions of conflict such as Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Aside from photographing wars and humanitarian crises she also reported on them.

Bikem is also the curator of a documentary photography project called The Refugee Project ™ which starts off with the war in the Balkans in 1998 and later expands on to document the lives of IDPs in Azerbaijan as well as the refugee crisis in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Further additions to the project have been an extensive documentary of illegal refugees living in Istanbul, and the refugee families from Darfur, Sudan, seeking protection in camps in Eastern Chad. Photographs from The Refugee Project have been published widely in Europe, United States and Turkey, as well as the body of work being invited to several exhibits at home and overseas. Prints have been accepted to the permanent collection of Kansas University and the Oxford Museum. In March 2006 Illegal, a book of photographs documenting the lives of two young African women, single mothers and illegal refugees trying to survive in Istanbul, was published by PlanB. In 2010, she self published her second book West-end of the Border and gave it free online access.

Bikem’s editorial work can be seen in various print and on-line news services including the New York Times, Newsweek, Businessweek, Christian Science Monitor, NTV-MSNBC, Times Picayune, and DoubleTake Magazine. She has also contributed to several books such as the Danish version of The Mantle of the Prophet by Roy Mottahedeh and the BTC compendium.

In May 2002, she was selected the photographer of the month by EPN World Reporter.

In June 2004, she was presented an award for her documentary work on refugees by UNHCR.

Bikem is also the founder of a civil grassroots initiative called For Women, By Women which, for four years  brought several hundred Turkish female photographers together to take a stand against violence against women. The initiative was aimed at raising funds, through sales of photographs, for agencies and foundations whose aim is to fight violence against women. Since its start in March 2005, two NGOs have benefited from the funds raised by the project.

Currently residing in Istanbul, she continues to work as a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer. Her latest project is Crossings, a cross-platform, multi-format intervention to draw attention to the increasing number of people, refugees and migrants, who risk their lives while trying to cross high seas to reach a safe harbor.


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