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«Iranian Flashback» series by Amir Azari

After the islamic revolution in 1979, everything changed in Iran and  it caused drastic transformations in both pre- and post-revolution generations. War, theocracy, forceful changes in political discourse, isolation from the world community, the currency drop, economic dependency on oil, extreme class discrimination and many other factors resulted in deep differences between generations.

 


Photography & Text by Amir Azari

The social atmosphere of Iran right before the revolution, with its western standards in personal freedom, converted to a religious, stifling atmosphere with Hijab being its utmost symbolic manifestation. Early after the revolution, the country entered a long period of attrition war with Iraq, whose catastrophic impacts are still existing in the society. It is believed that it takes a war or a revolution for a generation to be destroyed and disappeared, Iran unfortunately experienced both almost simultaneously.

 

According to statistics, more than 70% of Iranians are aged below 45, meaning that the majority of the population consists of young people who spent most of their lives in the post-revolution and post-war Iran.

 


I was always interested in bringing the spirit of this generation into my photos. I believe that in order to understand and depict the influence of the society on individuals, the most direct and reliable way is to look at the faces of its members. Through faces, one can read the habits of a society, the crises it has experienced, its past and perhaps its future. Faces are reflectors of hopes, dreams, loves, emotions, dispiritedness and …. In a country like Iran with such a fresh and bold memory of war, revolution and radical social changes, the young generation is struggling for a long time with social problems like addiction, prostitution, unemployment, infidelity, disbelief, pessimism, regret, desperation, migration tendency and many other problems. The signs of these problems are obvious in every corner of the country, regardless of the class and occupation.

Yekta’ is not her real name as she asked me not to mention her name. She is model in Iran. What crossed her mind was not too long ago, it was a recent incident. Yekta got pregnant by her boyfriend and figured it out long after the possibility of an abortion (she didn’t want the baby). She eventually obliged to give birth under another woman’s name who was not able to have a child and give her the newborn baby. During the shooting, she was thinking about her child, and was blaming herself for leaving her.

Soheil recalled the time he realized that his love was going to leave him. He used to blame himself and believed it was his fault.

 

Confronting people with such a wide spectrum of social and personal problems in everyday life, persuaded me to have a journey into their worlds, through their faces, with the hope of revealing the impact of the society on their personal attitudes.

 

In order to reach this goal, I asked the models I photographed to think about an event, a big moment that had changed their lives; a singular point! This event could be a good or a bad one. They were chosen to be below 45 years old. I asked them to come to the studio with normal cloths, without any specific makeup. I gave them time to settle down, relax and concentrate on themselves while setting up my equipment. Then, without distracting them from their thoughts, I started to shoot in absolute silence.

Sima still regrets the time her Visa request (to a European country) was rejected. This totally changed her life. She thinks she has an empty and meaningless life.

 

Siavash remembered a photo from the time he was only 14. It was a family photo, taken before his parents separated.

 

The result was unbelievable to me myself. The models usually had a common level of sadness. They used to go into a deep sad mood. When I later asked them the reason, they were all telling me strange stories about their failures and losses. Interestingly, when I asked a friend of mine who lives in Europe to imagine himself in such a situation, he told me he would have definitely thought about the birth of his child!

 

Yes, a destructive society can cruelly turn its young people into mentally old and frustrated people full of regret about the past rather than hope about the future. A concept which is being studied in social psychology under the title “effect of context in mental health”.

Saeed was thinking about his fiancée. Her mother forced her to marry a rich man. Saeed was regretting the time and energy he wasted for nothing when he was a young man.

 

Roya, Iranian Flashback series by Amir Azari

Roya was remembering the days after her divorce. Her father was suffering from Alzheimer’s and she had to work as a house-cleaner to overcome the costs his father’s medication, as well as her own and her son’s living costs. After the shooting she told me that her father was dead.

 

The background colours in the photos are in contrast with the mood of the models, in analogy to Iran’s society which is full of paradoxes. Just like the dual lifestyle of people, with one being forced and advertised by the state and one privately undertaken by individuals. The colours have usually warm tones, while the moods are cold, resembling the confusion, regret, loneliness and disappointment.

Nikita was remembering his brother-in-law, who died because of Alcohol intoxication. The night of incident, the family takes him to a private hospital. The hospital refuses to accept him because they cannot assure the hospital that they are able to pay the bills. Eventually they take him to a public hospital. Nikita said the nurses who were standing by his bed.

Kambiz was thinking about his immigration to US. He was a member of minority religious community in Iran. He decided to go abroad and live in US. There, after almost 15 years, the couple ended up getting divorce. Kambiz left everything behind and returned to Iran. He is married now and spends much of his time working.

 

Keyvan is an athlete. He loves sports, especially cycling. These days he has to work hard, almost 15 hours a day and therefore, he has no time for doing sports.

 

Ghazal remembered her two nieces, Asal and Osra. Their parents had divorced and the children used to be living with their father, although they were spending much time with Ghazal. All three of them were extremely dependent on each other. The father was so cruel to the girls that they decided to commit suicide by consuming Aluminum phosphide tablets. Osra survived but Asal passed away. Aluminum phosphide tablets are easily available in Iran’s market and are reported to be one of the most common causes of suicidal death in Iran.

 

Bizi’s father died from cancer. He was so close to his father that he had even talked to him about the fact that he was a transsexual. In the conservative atmosphere of Iran, this topic is still considered as a taboo. He used to be called Bizi because no-one liked to call his feminine name. Bizi was thinking about his father’s death. He believed that the cause of his father’s cancer was the pain and sorrow he went through after the confiscation of his factory by the government.

 

Amir Azari is an iranian photographer with strong focus on social portraiture and environmental issues. He has won international awards, most recently with two of his series at Paris Photo.

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At the time of shooting, Abbas was thinking about the moment he found his brother dead at the age of 18, because of gas leak from a faulty heater. He was the first person who found his corpse on the bed.