It takes minimal effort to inaccurately portray Iran, a land dating back to nearly 3400 BC., with a history too rich cover in any one textbook. While its borders change with the times, the people of Iran hold their culture steadfast in the face of resentment from much of the world.
The west illustrates Iran as a hub for Islamic extremism, denier of women's rights and a land that chants the death of the West. It is imperative to show the other side of this ancient land. Exactly how much fabrication goes into painting Iran's story? Alireza would argue it's not what the real people of Iran think.
Truth is Iran is many things. You'll find your extremists living amongst the liberal youth pushing for a global culture, and this nation is experiencing some growing pains. The youth of Iran do not understand the demonization of their culture by the west just as find it difficult to relate to hardline rules implemented by leaders of their nation. I suppose one cannot survive for centuries by welcoming a single-thought society. Iran is multifaceted and thankfully for mediums like Instagram, we're able to see another side. Photographers on a mission like Alireza are determined to show you another Iran, the one they see everyday. Alireza says, "I use my camera as a peace & love gun." The rest of us should follow suit.
When @HowtoPhotograph found Ali's Instagram account on the explore page, it was an endless gallery of imagery that I wouldn't associate with Iran. I admit, American TV does a great job brainwashing and overtime what I knew about Iran transitioned to what they wanted me to know.
Ali Reza's photography caught my eye. Something stood out and held true consistently. Iran wasn't dark. We saw men & women interacting in one space. We saw a passion for the old and the new, the elderly and the youth. It made me stop to think. Ultimately, wouldn't all of us (artists) want our work having the same effect?
We spoke to Alireza through email and let him describe his work and passion. "I'm a young Iranian photographer from Iran/Tehran that has a dream. I want to travel to countries as a messenger of peace. I hope to put my photos of Iran in other countries (galleries)."
In what ways do you feel that you're representing the Iranian culture?
I think iran is so beautiful and other world people dont know ,I think its my duty that I take many photos of Iranian cities and Iranian kind people. We are a great country with great culture and it's four seasons. I want to show the real face of Iran to world.
How did you start photography? or where did you learn photography? How many years have you been photographing?
I'm 24 years old, I started photography when i was 18 years old. I knew photography is what my job would be and my only grand master (teacher) is google.
What does culture mean to you and how does it reflect your work?
I use from my camera and my instagram account as a great network for my job (to show Iran to world). Iran is my country, my heart & my love... so i think art, fashion, architecture, and the people of Iran is so interesting for the world's people. Travel to Iranian cities make me happy and I want to show this through my photographs.
What photo style works best for you? Do you mind explaining it?
I just love photography, everything about it, any style of it. My professional style that im doing now is advertising photography but im freelancer so i did many projects with different brands & companies.
You shoot a lot of nature photographs, is nature something that inspires you and how does it inspire you?
Yeah of course anybody is in love with nature :) I want to help people feel happiness and I think photos of nature is like a medicine to heal sadness. I live in Tehran and I like show Tehran's corners to people and tourists as a new place they can visit one day.
What is your goal as an artist and/or photographer?
As I said, I want to show real the real beauty of Iran to the world by mixing Farsi font and typography through photos of Iran. My one & only dream is that I can show my photos in a great gallery in others places like (London, NYC, etc)
What’s in your photo kit?
A good photographer can show his/her art with any kit, it's the photographer that makes photo not the camera. However, I use a Nikon D810 with 50mm F1.4 and Canon 6D with 24-105 F4
When you photograph every-day-Iran, what is the message you hope viewers get from your photographs?
Kindness of Iranian people, many people of world dont know Iran...I mean real Iran. I just want to show the real good face of Iran to everyone.
What is the biggest misconception Americans have about the youth in Iran?
I can't understand this sepration and distace between Iran and America, Iranian youth love all of the people of world as humans. We believe in peace and love as John Lennon said , as Gandhi said , as Buddha or many other great people said. I want to remember Woodstock.
When you started this project was the goal different than what it is today?
No, no, no...I started photography to make my wish and dreams (to show the real Iran to the world & peace) real. I use my camera as a peace & love gun.
Can you share some of the messages you’ve received from people who follow your account? Are they surprised to see images of Iran that do not match those of American/Western Television?
Oh you know? it's amazing for me, every day I receive messeges from different countries & people about the positive influences of my photos of Iran and many people say to me they cannot believe these pics. They say Iran is so beautiful, I'm so happy!
When you showcase your photographs, is there an overall theme that you want to always keep in focus?
I photograph moments by good mood theme, and I think all of my photos are in this style and theme.
How much of Iran have you covered with photography and what are parts of Iran that you wish to cover in the future?
I've covered 10% beauty of Iran I think. Any cities of Iran has culture and beautiful nature or texture for travellers, backpackers or tourists. I'll travel and take photos of other cities very soon.
Story by Walid Azami