Art And Culture

Collective Photo Project on Iran

Auto & Tech Desk
The selected photos portrayed diverse subject matter including nuances of life, natural landscapes untouched by mankind, cultural heritage that has withstood the test of time,
The exhibition received well over 300 enthusiasts during the opening.The exhibition received well over 300 enthusiasts during the opening.

On September 17, residents within the vicinity of the Bay Area, California were invited to a journey through Iran.

With the slogan, "a walk through Iran, one photo at a time” a collective photo project, titled Iran Unveiled, went on display at Kala Art Institute in Berkley and received visitors from as far as Texas.

Courtesy of local artist and curator Mahya Jaberiansari, who started working on the project roughly six months ago, the works of nine Iranian photographers were brought together for the display.

The collection, which was co-curated by Arash Shirinbab, included the works of photographers Alireza Khatibi, Arash Ashkar, Bahram Habibi, Farzad Abedi, Mahya Jaberiansari, Omid Scheybani, Reza Yaghoubi, Saeid Moridi, and myself.

The exhibition received well over 300 enthusiasts during the opening which lasted for three hours.

The space was decorated with Iranian elements, such as rugs and tea sets, while Persian snacks went all around. Unique keepsakes, namely T-shirts adorned with the exhibition logo and a photo book, were available for sale.  

Jaberiansari opened the ceremony with a speech explaining how the project started, underscoring the fact that "for us, this exhibition is about more than photography; it’s about our world culture."

The artists who were based in Iran joined via a three-hour-long video call, during which time the visitors approached them with questions and compliments.  

According to the curator "people got to interact with the artists who were not present, and for most people this was the best part of the opening reception."

"People from all walks of life, from all ages—from young kids on their dad's shoulders to the elderly—showed up," she said.

Part of the funds for putting up this exhibition were raised through a campaign on Indiegogo, an international crowdfunding website that managed to collect $12,000 over 30 days.

The project was also financially supported by Iranican: a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to promoting Iranian culture.

A Bandar Abbas native, Moridi who was also the project's social media manager and a counselor said that one of the major challenges "was the time difference between Iran and the US.”

"Since Mahya lived in America, one of us either had to wake up early or sleep late. Despite this, looking back at the journey, and what we witnessed on the day of the opening and how it turned out, I personally think that it was all worth it."

  Different Backgrounds

From public health to engineering and journalism, contributing photographers all came from different backgrounds.

The exhibit looked to help a mainly western audience to experience the country up close and personal through the lenses of the artists.

The project statement notes that "Iran has one of the richest art heritages in world history encompassing many disciplines. But for far too long, the world has only seen and been exposed to Iran through the lens of politics and sanctions leaving out the realities of its life, people and places from the conversation altogether."

It attempted to shift the conversation toward the realities and disengage people from the misconstrued image of the country in the (western) media.

The selected photos portrayed diverse subject matter including nuances of life, natural landscapes untouched by mankind, cultural heritage that has withstood the test of time, and architecture unknown to the world.

"The mission of this project is to reflect the side of Iran that has been missing from the mainstream media," the statement further said.

Jaberiansari did not know any of the contributing artists before this project but followed their photos on Instagram. All further interaction was done via the Internet.

Moridi believes the project has been a success in terms of performance, given the fact that none of the nine members actually met; nor any meetings held, and everything was done virtually.

Habibi who contributed in making the video for the fund-raising campaign noted that the most interesting part for him was "the challenge of managing nine people with different interests and professions without holding a single meeting in the real world."

Scheybani believes the exhibition certainly achieved its goal for those who attended.

"Yet I would have to add that the majority of the attendees (on the opening day) were Iranians. It didn't attract many non-Iranians which I would say is below expectations," he said.

The exhibition is on display for two weeks and ends on October 1.