What Photos Don’t Say: Iran


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Afshin loves opera

irandie-unbekannte-seite-des-iran-331-841-1449834083Where normally foreign travel photo pieces about Iran present photos that seek to reinforce our ideas of what Iran ‘should’ look like, this set taken and, clearly heavily edited, for Vice Germany seem to dodge that, and instead present a much fuller, and welcome banal side of life in Iran in pictures. The images selected for the article are dramatic, cinematic, classic. While these are commendable there are serious contextual flaws in the presentation of these images. The article claims this is “The unknown’ side of life in Iran“, but shows images of bread-making and a butchers, a man riding his bike while on the phone – is side of life really that unknown? Do Iranians not eat every day in the German Vice-reader’s Orientalist mind? Do they not go to the market. Where would they imagine the bread and meat comes from then each day that the Iranians have been living on for many millennia? And hooray a girl is holding up a ketchup bottle! Heinz has made it’s way into Iran! This kind of novelty approach to travel to the Islamic republic is a little old by now surely? This time last we posted on a photo series representing consumerism in Iran by another foreign travel photographer. Why do these news outlets never ask an Iranian to take the pictures? Perhaps articles, such as this one, a  review of “Shopping for Freedom“ in der Islamischen Republik. Widerstand und Konformismus im Konsumverhalten der iranischen Mittelschicht, by Ariane Sadjed, written at the start of 2014 and which contains actual facts rather than mere fleeting representations in snaps are too long and wordy for these writers and photographers. “In her conclusion, Ariane Sadjed suggests that in today’s Iran there appears to be no conflict between Islam and modernity.”

The article also claims in a photo caption that Afshin plays the violin, piano and studied composition. His passion is the operaeven if he has never seen a performance live, because there are none in Iran.” Does Vice not vet its writers? Just put the words “opera” and “Iran” into your search engine and you’ll see he’s totally misinformed.  The four solitary tags at the bottom of the article reveal what the editors make of their own information streams: “Themes: Iran, photos, unknown, Islam”

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