Persian photography, just like Persian cinema, is among the best in the world. They belong closely together: Persian photos with their unexpected crops, the contrasts between near and far away planes and the emphasis on movement recall film screenshots, while the vivid colors, sharp contours and meditative compositions of the typical majestic landscapes of Persian cinema resemble slowly surveyed still pictures.
It is no chance that in the thirty years since the turn of 1979 it was precisely cinema and photo to reach world standard and above in Iran. Most other forms of art – music, dance, painting – have been banned or pushed into the background by the Islamic revolution. However, Darius Mehrjui, the great film director of the 70s managed to convince Ayatollah Khomeini at a private screening of his Gaav – “The Cow” – condensing Iranian rural life into an absurd metaphor, about the importance of movie as an instrument of propaganda. Film production was given a free hand and state sponsorship, and it has ever since enjoyed a remarkable independence. Cinema, as well as the closely associated art of photography have offered the possibility of development for a large number of sensitive and talented young artists, and when visiting Iran, you encounter a widespread and vivid movie and photo world.
But while Persian movies come to Europe at least for film festivals – where they win important prizes –, Persian photo hardly reaches to us. In Iran a large number of excellent photo albums and magazines are published in Persian language, but they are hardly known abroad. The Persian blogosphere is very lively – the fourth most frequent language of the world’s blogs is Persian –, but Iranian blogs are very individualistic and, in contrast to the West or even to Russia, there are very few collective portals that facilitate their overview. The most fascinating Persian photos are usually found by chance in the course of long browsing, sometimes on the most unexpected sites.
Such is for example گرگان ما Gorgân-e mâ, “Our Gorgan”, the web chronicle of the chief town of Golestan province, where among recent news and habitual press photos you can often find excellent photo series by local photographers. Just like this one presented here, the pictures of Hamid Khurshidi on the Turkmen shepherds around Gorgan.
Golestan province lays along the south-eastern shore of the Caspian sea, stretching from the four thousand meters high chains of the Elbrus to the south to the Turkmen steppe to the north. Its mild climate and fertile land makes it one of Iran’s most important agricultural regions. “As if God at the creation of the world wanted to experiment on a little spot with various areas, forests, mountains, plains and sea, so he created Gorgan and its environs”, writes Hamid Khurshidi. “These pictures present the plains above Gorgan and its people.”
Mohammad Javad Martabi has published a photo series on the mountain village of Ziyarat some seven kilometers from Gorgan. His pictures are very similar to how Abbas Kiarostami presents the tiny Kurdish village and the neighboring mountains in his The wind will carry us.
Abotaleb Nadri photographed the work of the children of the brick-producing villages around Gorgan. The elevated perspective reminds of how Samira and Hana Makhmalbaf or Majid Majidi capture the children characters of their movies to visually emphasize their defenceless situation in the society of the adults.
Gorgan is also the native place of the great old man of Persian classical music Mohammad Reza Lotfi. This instrumental piece is the last one in his album Vatanam Iran (My homeland Iran, 2008) where he performs together with the Sheyda Ensemble (2'18").