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Cooking a fish
Reviewing three photo essays

Vida Kashizadeh
April 17, 2005

In the last 10 years photography has become increasingly popular amongst young people interested in visual arts. This is being the case not only in Iran but also in the UK. Obviously in the UK, the education system has recognized this and is making provisions for young artists in order to further their skills and development.With the development of digital camera this trend is likely to increase with time.

The accessibility of a camera (as compared to a film camera for instance), the falling out of high costs for processing and the independency the artist has when using this medium, have all contributed to this trend. We are now able to see pictures with high concentration of pixels without the burden of high costs of production for the artists.

I have made some observations in regards to three of the photo albums displayed on this site which may prove useful, not only for the photographers concerned, but also for any up-and-coming artist in any discipline, who intends to reflect on the world for their artistic expression.

My selection is mainly based on the fact that I am a new reader of this site and these three are the ones I have had time to see, but also the fact that I did not want to focus on artists who use landscape and beautiful villages of Iran as their main subject.

In English there is an expression which says: in cooking a fish you can't go too wrong! Even we Iranians haven't seen all the wonderful places in Iran. My own dream is to tour around Iran. It is a beautiful country. This fact however has been used -- and even exploited by many film-makers and photographers -- to the extend that artistically the subject is getting exhausted and exhausting to watch as well.

No wonder we see directors desperately travelling around in and out of Iran to look for new landscapes and new faces to match these landscapes. And that's why we have so many world famous directors, but not even one internationally known actor (in UK this word is used for both sexes when speaking of good quality acting) living in Iran.

In recent years these directors have even tried to film each other, when getting bored with the landscapes. Yes, sometimes the Land Escapes.

So what is the relationship between these directors and the Iranian actors? Why are these directors so anti actors? Are there any actors out there in Iran who are reading this? Please reply!

Is this because they don't want to pay the actors or is it because everyone on the streets of Iran wants to be filmed (In a documentary film shown by Arte TV Kiarostami pointed to the children who were curiously and playfully looking through the window of the van at him and the German interviewer, saying to her that they all wanted to be filmed). But what about the film maker's responsibilities?

In comparison consider for instance Antonioni, Fellini, Truffaut, Kurosawa and Woody Allen. In case of Truffaut , the actor Jean Pierre Leaud almost grew up with him. We can see him as a child in one of Truffaut's first films and in later films we almost follow Leaud's growth and development as an actor.

I remember I once saw a large portrait of the little boy with deep sea blue eyes (and that is the look the French particularly like. Think of Alain Delon) -- who acted in "Where Is the Friends House?" -- on the cover of a French magazine, once the film had been shown in France for the first time.

Has anyone seen that boy in any other film ever again? That's the thing. These great men not only don't use (literally) their own actors again, they won't use an actor who has been already used by another director neither.

I wonder: Where Is That Boy's House and Who Is His Friend?

So, what has happened to the actors of all those wonderful films made with those wonderful children of Iran? Where is that boy in The Runner nowadays, and all the others?

Kiarostami was honest enough to show to the German interviewer what had become of Mosafer's child actor. He had lost touch with him during the revolution and encounters him by chance years later, the man being now a lorry driver.

The director gives him a video of the film as a present and our wonderful Mosafer cries while watching the film. What dreams must have been crushed is beyond this article. I would like to see those people writing about their experiences. But perhaps all the lorries of Iran are driven by these grown up mosaafers who have chosen this profession as a substitute for the journeys of their dreams which never reached any destinations.

So who cares? But, WE must.

Back to the subject of landscape and people in front of them as a background: The focus has to change. I am not against capturing nature and beautiful villages in principle. In fact the environmental issues are of major concern to me. What I am talking about is the relationship between the viewer and the viewed. What we need now is a journey within, in order to get to know ourselves, our motivations, our relationship with the world and how we get influenced and can in turn influence the world.

And now the 3 Photo albums:

13 bedar, by Kaveh M.
These photos would be only interesting for an anthropologist, and the people who could spot themselves in the photos of course.

They are claustrophobic and show urban tribes locked in a situation beyond their control. If the photographer was aware of these facts and explored those aspects more, his photos could have turned into artwork These people are not really enjoying the nature as it supposed to be the case on this earth-respecting day when one offers the seeds and the sprouts to the nature in order to have a fruitful year, literally and metaphorically.

Looking at the pictures I initially thought it was a kind of demonstration (or was it?) and then remembered how little green space Paris has, as compared to London or even Munich.

Somehow Kaveh hasn't decided if he wants to be an artist or one of the crowd.

The thing is that individuals love to be noticed by an artist when standing in crowds, but not always when noticed by a reporter -- whom they perceive as one of themselves trying hard. This is more the case when they're not as happy in the situation as they could be. That is why many faces in the photos look suspiciously at the camera. Kaveh is conscious of his position being dubious and perhaps that is why he avoids giving his full name consequently.

He needs to explore his own feelings. What was his perception of the situation? Was this 13 bedar what he expected? Was he shocked? (I was). If he was comfortable what went wrong? If he was critical what was it he missed to capture? Has he more in mind than he can realize on the camera? What are the techniques he needs to learn? Does he visit enough galleries or watch work of arts?

Constructive advice: Try again on next year's 13 bedar. Meanwhile concentrate on your own surrounding and friends. Get to know them better- their work and interests -- ask them if you can make photos of them while they work or do the hobby they like (dance etc), and only then take your camera with you. And most of all while you make the photos be in touch with your own feelings and care about whatever it is you try to capture.

Look forward to seeing your photos next year.

Iran Reportage by Nickmard Khoey
A good understanding of framing and excellent technical proficiency. This is a sensitive, liberal and kind artist, who lets his subjects present themselves the way they want to be perceived, in this case however, by an outsider. And that is exactly where the problem lies. My guess is that by the time you made those wonderful pictures of the little girl moving in front of the taxi you knew you had to be in the crowd to capture a moment like that. And that artistic frustration which put you in front of a shooting man, wow. Brilliant explorer!

Please give us some wonderful pictures of New Zealanders, perhaps aboriginals? Otherwise go and stay in Iran for a while, and when fluent in Persian, Turkish or Kurdish go back to the same people who posed so lovely for your camera and capture the moment of joy in their faces, when they see a caring person back.

Going Places by Ehsan Khoshroo
Here we have an artist who, if born 200 years ago, would have been a carpet weaver of Kashan. He makes a knot between his camera and the subject. And I say subject -- not object -- because he has respect for people and nature. Indeed he can go places, especially if he is interested in film making as well. So please keep this respect you have for your subjects alive throughout your life.

As the pressure of producing continuous artistic work, once one has reached fame could have an effect on ones innocence. And that is the secret of why we find the early works of some artists much more interesting than their recent ones.

Vida Kashizadeh is a poet and singer living in the UK.

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