Photo Essay

This tag is associated with 17 posts

Curtains of Iron or Curtains of Silk? Soviet Artwork in Conversation with West and South Asia

The post-Soviet art of Central Asia and the Caucasus comes out of a Soviet-era conversation of artistic styles that looks not just to Moscow but also to Mecca. An understanding of the high and low registers of this Soviet cultural heritage allows the humor and self-confidence of the work to be appreciated — aesthetically as well as financially — by audiences. Continue reading »

The King Hasn’t Left The Building: An Oral History of an Afghan Musical Icon, Ahmad Zahir

Ahmad Zahir, the major Afghan pop singer of the 1970s, died mysteriously in 1979, a year of upheaval and turmoil in Afghanistan’s political history. Since then, many Afghans, in diaspora and in Afghanistan, maintain a special relationship with Ahmad Zahir and his music. This article explores the memory of one family in using Ahmad Zahir as a way to connect to their homeland. Continue reading »

Becoming a Post-Soviet City: Social Housing and Urban Planning in Yerevan

Since gaining independence, Yerevan has been subjected to a complex process of postcolonial nation-building while simultaneously adopting globalized urbanization trends. Similar to many other gentrifying cities, demolition and displacement are becoming more and more a common practice. New multinational construction projects are presented and justified as acts of nation-building while the low income majority is expected by the emerging elite to make sacrifices for the benefit of the nation as a whole. Continue reading »

A Mural Erased: Urban Art, Local Politics, and the Contestation of Public Space in Mashhad

Municipal politics around beautification programs reveal the complexity of governance in Iran and shatter illusions about the monolithic nature of the Iranian state. By exploring how local actors express often-contradictory opinions about the nature and future of Iranian cities, a fuller picture of modern life and politics in Iran emerges — one that highlights the diffuse nature of power and local decision-making in the Islamic Republic. Continue reading »

Constructing Sacred Space: An Architectural History of Mashhad’s Imam Reza Shrine

Like the city itself, the Imam Reza shrine complex grew gradually over time as political elites tried to establish their legitimacy. Rulers strove not only to appease the local religious establishment by funding elaborate building projects around the site, but also hoped to create physical testaments to their political authority. Due to the inherent political nature of these structures, the site was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt as it changed hands from dynasty to dynasty. Continue reading »

15 Ways Sanctions Hurt Ordinary Iranians

Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has been placed under increasingly harsh rounds of sanctions by the US, the European Union, and the United Nations. The latest and strongest round of these sanctions were enacted during the early years of the Obama administration, and have made life increasingly difficult for average Iranians. Despite the significant effects that sanctions have had on all aspects of the lives of Iranian people, it can be hard at times to appreciate their impact in everyday terms. We’ve compiled a list of 15 photographs to help illustrate these impacts.

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Between Arab and Ajam: Travels Across the Borderlands of Iranian Khuzestan, Part 2

How could cultures not mix? Walking and cabbing through Ahvaz, I could not help but feel like I left Iran and had entered the kind of place people envision when they think of the predominantly Arab states of the southern Persian Gulf; complete with men wearing Arabic dishdasha (white robes) and families eating at roadside falafel stands. Even listening closely while walking in the streets, you hear Arabs and Persians conversing, living, and working alongside of each other. Continue reading »

Between Arab and Ajam: Travels Across the Borderlands of Iranian Khuzestan, Part 1

To visit Dezful in Khuzestan province is to see a city that has an active and developed understanding of its own history. As I continued my travels through Iran’s southwestern province, I encountered histories tied intimately to dynamic and constantly developing understandings of the past. Continue reading »

Zoroastrian Pilgrimages and Muslim Saints: Tracing Modern Iranian Shi’ism at the Shrine of Chak Chak

Reciting the history-mythology surrounding the figure of Shahrbanu and her role in the dissemination of Islam to Iranians is a significant method of (re)producing a seamless continuity between the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad and Iran’s pre-Islamic and Zoroastrian culture. In this sense, the validity of the historic objective “truth” of these stories seems to be far less important than the cultural import that these stories convey to us about the nation’s sense of itself. Continue reading »

Picturing the Iranian Everyday: An Interview with the Photographers Behind “Humans of Tehran”

Humans of Tehran offers a well-needed corrective to the clashes of stereotypical images that constitutes so much of Western reporting on Iran. Founded in 2011, the Humans of Tehran project consists of street photography from across the Iranian capital that gives a refreshingly candid look at modern Iranian society. The photographs neither bask in contradiction nor attempt to present a uniform face, but instead reflect the group’s simple, elegant premise: to photograph Iranians as they live their daily lives. Continue reading »

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