Frank Hurley’s Love Affair With Iran & The Middle East

Frank Hurley was a famous Australian, photographer, documentary maker and adventurer.  He was the official Australian photographer during WWI and WWII.

He force landed in Bandar Abbas when his plane got caught in a sandstorm. Along with his crew they were held up for several days for their sudden entry in the Iranian territory which violated the immigration laws of the country and then released. Australia and Iran enjoyed an amicable relationship during the Pahlavi era so in Tehran he was given free access to film the Shah of Iran in his palace with his family.  Through his acute observation of the political climate Hurley felt the royal family unease as their country was under the control of foreign forces and the future very much uncertain. Yet, in all his filming he made sure the country, true to its glorious past was portrayed beautiful and free and his camera focused on Persian art and architecture.

One of his big assignments was to film the supply line from Port Basra to Tabriz where the Soviets received their much needed aid to fight the Germans. Hurley became a little bored with this as trucks travelled through mountain ranges day in day out to reach their destination. Being an adventurer at heart he tried to add drama to this routine delivery by creating a landslide with explosion. But the result was pathetic.  However, Hurley had a great knowledge of history and it dawned on him that the route they were traveling on was laden with stories of the ancient past and full of dramas and intrigues.

His biographer writes, “At the ‘famous Rock of Bihistun, inscribed by Darius the Great….and which later provided the key to the forgotten Babylonian tongue, he procured one of the most spectacular and risky camera pans of his career. With ‘the camera poised sensationally on the precipice’, Hurley slowly swept the landscape, form a snaking like of tiny trucks at least 200 feet below, across distant snow-capped peaks, to a close up of the inscription, its features emboldened by an oblique sun. He [asked] local villages to build a makeshift ladder from two telegraph poles and, with the aid of ropes, he and his assistant scaled the cliff face to their death-defying camera position adjacent to the ancient relief.”

In Tehran he was involved in a car accident and his right hand was fractured. He then went to Cairo and while waiting to recover from his injury worked on film editing and script writing.

He spent 6 years in Middle East. He had a deep liking and understanding of the region and apart from his official work he used his camera to document the many places he visited and the result was a documentary titled, Cradle of Creation. “The film is about Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Israel, including the cities of Tehran, Basra, the ancient city of Petra and Jerusalem, with a focus on the region’s cultural heritage and natural environment.”

Frank Hurley travelled in the Middle East extensively and filmed and photographed many aspects of the region, its people and their lifestyle.

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