Sam Asaert: Iran – Bardasht Tasviri: A Photographic Perception
This book is a photographic perception of Iran.
A book about Iran would imply the conveyance of ideas and notions about it. Yet within these pages, you will find nothing of the historic, linguistic, political, cultural, or any of the broader context necessary to obtain substantial and deeper insight into a place as rich, as diverse, and as old as Iran.
There are many different perceptions of Iran and, depending upon the reader of this book, the photographic representations of people and places in the following three chapters can be interpreted as adhering to any one of these.
For some of you these photographs will confirm your perception of Iran as a pious and spiritual society living righteously by the word of Allah, following the Shi’a religious principles. Or perhaps it will confirm your perception that Iran is a land of heretics. While for others these photographs might confirm the perception that Iran is a singular, homogeneous society living under the suffocating yoke of an authoritarian Islamic theocracy. Others will see their perception confirmed of a society in dire need of so-called “Westernisation”, and others still might even find proof of the so-called terrorist state.
Yet unless you have spent time in Iran yourself you have only ever been exposed to others’ perceptions of it. These generally offer little understanding of what Iran is, as a culture in its own right, because they tend to narrow it down into single defining elements through a distinct visual language of symbols. Bearded men become symbolic for Islam, veiled women for oppression, disenfranchised youth for civil regression, etc…
And though often based on truisms—you will find bearded men, veiled women and disenfranchised youth within the pages of this book also—these images that are symbolic of certain perceptions are also abstractions and stereotypical oversimplifications of a larger and more nuanced reality nonetheless.
Underneath and in between these prevailing perceptions of what Iran is inevitably still beats the heart of a complex multi-layered contemporary society—with roots going back millennia—that is both modern and traditional, spiritual and intellectual, artistic and rigid, striving and melancholic, progressive and oppressive, and neither Eastern nor Western.
So rather than stripping Iranians of their individuality and reducing them to symbols that suit certain perceptions of Iran, the photographs and texts in this book aspire at imploring you to regard Iranians not as a singular mass but as a collection of diverse individuals—each with their own thoughts and emotions, opinions and attitudes, outlooks and aspirations, dialects and sense of humour, personalities and personal histories.
I.e. unique human beings living unique lives in a unique place in a variety of ways and with different verve. Represented here in a way all of us deserve to be:
Proud and dignified—as in my perception most Iranians are.’
– Sam Asaert