Outsiders in London

All photographs:  copyright © Milan Svanderlik - London - UK


Haldun (Hal) Musazlioglu

Age: 38

Born in Esslingen, Germany

Father & Mother both born in Turkey

Ethnic heritage / Father & Mother: Turkish


Raised and educated in Germany, Hal has lived in London since 1996.   He speaks four languages and, using his linguistic skills, formerly worked for the BBC in their online services.   He is currently working as a carer while studying to become a psychological counsellor.

Born to Turkish parents in Germany, Hal was treated as an outsider at school, being seen, in his own words, as “a dodgy foreigner”.  Yet when returning ‘home’ to Turkey during the holidays, he felt he was an outsider there too;  people treated him in a manner that made it clear he was not ‘one of them’, but rather a Turk who had been “Germanised” – ‘Almanci’ in Turkish.  

Hal’s coming out as gay at the age of 17 not only created an even greater distance between him, his schoolmates (especially the Turkish-Muslim ones) and his family and friends, but also created a barrier with other nationalities.  

In London, Hal continues to feel like an outsider but since London is home to so many diverse people,  he says, “outsiderdom feels somewhat different here”.   Because he was born in Germany and chose himself to move to London, Hal feels much more at home here, even as an outsider.   He now frequents Heavy Metal bars and these are the places where he socialises with his friends, many of whom describe themselves as outsiders too, functioning mainly on the margins of society.  

His dress code/appearance is an expression, a consequence, of his mind-set, a mind-set that fiercely rejects commercial mainstream ‘culture’, its homogeneity and its seeming “collective blind-flock mentality towards consumerism”.   It is a way of displaying his distance and his disdain for a society that seems to know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.   Thus, his taste in music - Death/Heavy Metal, another music culture shunned by the charts and by commercial radio stations - is visibly expressed by wearing T-Shirts celebrating his favourite bands.   The many buttons, studs and spikes on his customised leather jackets and denim vest make it plain that none of them was purchased on the High Street.  

Hal further lives out his fetishes by wearing these garments as a matter of course, rather than reserving them solely for special, fetish-themed nights in clubs or bars.   For him, his numerous items of clothing in leather and rubber engender a blend of subversion, eroticism and “gemütlichkeit”, the sense of being comfortable and feeling well within oneself.   He used to be a Skinhead but, because of its tarnished politics, has moved on to become a Punk.  

Hal concedes that this mode of dress also makes him an outsider in the gay community, since it is seriously out of step with current trends in the way most gay men present themselves to the world.   He certainly stands out, and feels quite comfortable doing so, but he does admit that he frequently has to confront difficulties - tourists often take photographs of him in the street without so much as asking permission.

Hal accepts that the main disadvantage of his many tattoos and his unusual dress code is that it excludes him from certain jobs.   He has therefore had to consider this in the past when applying for posts.   Obviously, he was never interested in typical ‘suit-jobs’ and has thus worked mainly in either the media or in the travel industry, or he has taken jobs that he could do from home.  

He also has to take care when travelling abroad, especially to Istanbul, as his ‘look’ will seem aggressively western, secular, anti-Turkish and thus a threat;  it can cause a disturbance, especially in places that have become more Islamist in recent years, as have certain quarters of Istanbul and Turkey as a country in general.   So, with his Mohican and his extensive tattoos, Hal frequently has to take care.

Being the outsider gives Hal a strong sense of ‘self’.   “There is a reason”, he says, “why I look the way I do.   My ‘style’ is an expression of my mind-set.   As opposed to fashion, which by its nature is ephemeral and dependent on current fads and commercial tastes, any style that is an expression of a notion or an opinion is timeless.”   Which is the precise reason behind his disdain for fashion, the reason he has had to explain on numerous occasions to stunned, young fashion students on Brick Lane, before they proceed to take pictures of him.

Also, being an outsider allows him to look in, to survey and assess objectively the society he lives in.   In terms of politics, he sees himself as an “ardent, secular anarchist” and his reason for this is that he heartily opposes what he perceives to be the truly mind-bendingly dull and dangerous “consumerist bullshit”;  the fact that we are now seen only as consumers and no longer as citizens is a development that he feels is continuing.

The way Hal looks can also be perceived by some as an advantage:  he looks exotic and this can make him attractive to others who seek unconventionality or simply attract others who pick up on what he describes as “numerous cultural commonalities”, be they in terms of music, politics or sexuality.

Though undoubtedly an outsider to the world at large, Hal feels that he is very much a member of certain groups;  indeed, he feels comfortable anywhere where alternative people gather.   He is at home in the Punk and Heavy Metal scenes, on the fetish scene, with BDSM people, and with any other people who have a critical stance towards the society at large.   Politically, he remains steadfastly a “secular anarchist”.

Everything that makes Hal appear an outsider has the virtue of enabling him to look upon society from a different perspective;  when this is combined with his ethnic and cultural inheritance, it allows Hal to see the world around him with greater clarity.   On the one hand, this leaves him frequently puzzled;  on the other hand, it provides him with a lot of potential material for his stand-up comedy.

“Absolutely not!” is Hal’s unambiguous reply to being asked if, given the choice, he would opt not to be an outsider, as he feels the matter of ‘opting’ never arose in the first place.   His ‘outsiderdom’ is simply Hal being the person he is.   There are no other options.

Interview Date: 16th April 2013

Updated:  4th June 2013

Born to Turkish parents in Germany, Haldun was treated as an outsider at school, being seen, in his own words, as “a dodgy foreigner”.  On returning ‘home’ to Turkey for the holidays, he found he was an outsider there too, with people making it clear he was not ‘one of them’, but a Turk who had been “Germanised”.   Having come out at the age of 17, Hal later moved to London where he has lived since 1996.   As a gay man and self-styled ‘secular anarchist’, Hal fiercely rejects mainstream commercial ‘culture’, its homogeneity and its consumerism and he courts unconventionality through his striking appearance, his way of life, and the firm views he propounds about the world around him - his ‘outsiderdom’ is simply Hal being who he is.

Photography: London 16th April 2013