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Exhibit Sets Out to Prove Sharks Are "Misunderstood"

Underwater photographer Aysegul Dinçkök.EXPAND
Underwater photographer Aysegul Dinçkök.
Courtesy of Aysegul Dinçkök

Sharks are the reason we watch Discovery Channel for an entire week every year. They’ve carried countless horror movies without saying a word. And they’re why Ian Ziering still has a career. We can’t get enough of these predators. They fascinate and terrify us at the same time.

Underwater photographer Aysegul Dinçkök and free-diving record-holder Sahika Ercümen set out to prove sharks aren’t a threat to humans by swimming with them on multiple occasions in Jupiter Point. There was no cage protecting the two Turkish women. The only thing separating them and 20 or so sharks was water. Photos and footage from this eye-opening adventure are on display during their Raw Pop Up-hosted Miami Art Week exhibit, titled "Misunderstood," Wednesday through Sunday at the old Burdines building.

“People are amazed [by the exhibit] because they’re very afraid of sharks,” said Dinçkök, who had been around sharks prior to this experience and admitted it took some getting used to.

The U.S. finished first in the world in unprovoked shark attacks in 2017 with 53, more than half of which took place right here in Florida. But there were zero unprovoked fatalities that year or even the year prior, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. The museum points out you’re far more likely to get killed by bees, wasps, or snakes than sharks.

Dinçkök said the exhibit depicts a different side of sharks than you’re used to seeing on the big screen. The women befriended the animals by following rules and earning their trust, and avoided shark hickeys in the process.

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“We met them on the bottom of the ocean about 30 meters deep and then came up to about 20 to 23 meters,” Dinçkök said. “This is where we did the shooting. They’re interested when they see us because we were dressed in black. They saw all black and didn’t know what it was, but they’re very curious. They want to swim with you in harmony.”

Dinçkök speaks of sharks the way some speak of show horses, romanticizing them with labels such as “elegant” and “lovely” and describing some of their movements as “dancing.” It’s her hope that the public will come to appreciate these sea creatures as she has and take note of their important role in the ocean.

“Global warming and overhunting [are] endangering the species,” Dinçkök said. “We might not have sharks very much longer. We have to teach children that we need sharks.”

Raw Pop Up. 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 5, through Saturday, December 8, and 2 p.m. Sunday, December 9, at the old Burdines building, 1 SW First St., Miami; iamrawpopup.com. Tickets cost $15-$30 per day and a five-day pass costs $70, via Eventbrite.

Editor's Note: The mission of Raw Pop-Up was not to prove that sharks are misunderstood, a spokeswoman called to say after publication of this piece. That mission rather belonged to the artist, and she was one of more than 80 creators at the show. 

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