Iran: 38 years (Arles-2017)

“It is not a coincidence that Iran has so many photographers. When today’s Iranians want to express themselves, they use the tools given to them by history. The modern version of poetry is photography, of course. Images, photojournalism, documentary or art are visual poetry, if you will. With this exhibition, we want to introduce those who are shaping the image of Iran today. A very diverse mix of photographers, artists and filmmakers portraying a country still caught up in revolution and war, but also fast-changing beyond recognition. Iran is both a young and an old country at the same time. Thousands of years of history have come before the 1979 Islamic revolution. We start counting again from that year. Iran: year 38, is to be an exhibition celebrating the culture of visual poetry embraced by Iranians. ‘

Anahita Ghabaian et Newsha Tavakolian



This exhibition features 66 Iranian photographers and on entry one is confronted with a  huge black and white image of a crowd of people titled “Reopening of Universities Tehran 14’th of January 1979” by Maryam Zandi. While it may not have a political message this exhibition does have a political theme since it focuses on Iran, a nation that that underwent revolution in the late 1970’s which these images presumably digitally remastered, capture very dramatically. This event was only the beginning however. There followed war with Iraq. Many different examples of photographic representation are visible here. They unpretentiously record what happened.

The keeping of pets is frowned upon yet people own them and interact with them too. Iranians have become like other people from around the world. This exhibition has obviously been well curated; the photographs bear testament to what is happening; their uncontrived nature making for a convincing historical record. A photograph of a policewoman filming a demonstration indicates awareness of what was going on although this photograph by Hassan Sarbakhshian does not really let us know what is happening as it just looks like a portrait of someone photographing. A photograph by Arash Khamooshi shows destroyed satellite dishes but we need to be told the police have done this.


I wonder how these photographers learnt their craft! Much work seems to be a response to what was being experienced as in the holidays of Behnam Sadighi yet those making the pictures must have had some awareness of their country And what it was going through. Staged photographs by Azadeh Akhlaghi to show events that took place reveal a level of sophistication in picture making. There are also images that are poetic such as Abbas Kiarostami’s snow and tree pictures. Some photos show the effects of climate change.


I like this exhibition for the way it relates the history of a country though there are probably many who would consider it biased and Westernised. They might be the kind of people who would rather close their eyes to the suffering that took place of which these images have recorded fragments.

In the past Iranians were known as poets now they are great photographers making a visual record of what their country is going through yet might there not be a place for a kind of photography that documents everything in life, free from the necessity of the glory and gore that makes Iran news!?



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