As an Iranian born writer on literature, who is also deeply interested in the role of women within civic society, I invited Azar Nafisi to comment on Inge Morath’s photographs of Iran from a variety of perspectives; historical as well as political, personal as well as cultural. As an writer and social critic, Nafisi shares with Morath a common set of intellectual concerns. Both are motivated by the larger historical movements of the 20th century, and both approach the study of the cultures that have been transformed by such movements through their creative output, particularly their literature and poetry. In approaching Morath’s photographs, I asked Nafisi to consider, on the one hand, how Morath might have prepared for her visit to Iran, and what impact a consciousness largely shaped by its literature might have on the photographs she made there. On the other hand, I asked her to imagine a contemporary, non-Iranian viewer of Morath’s images, whose knowledge of Nafisi’s homeland has been shaped in large part through the media coverage, much of it photographic, of recent political events in Iran. Balancing these, during our conversation, in Washington, DC on October 27th, 2008, Nafisi provided both an objective context for encountering Morath’s photographs and a sincerely personal response to them.
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