By Gabriela Bulisova

In Iran, the historical, cultural, political and religious depth of ancient Persian culture lives side by side with its 21st century technological emancipation and its religious fundamentalism. The result is a nation of dualities and contradictions.

Iran is both religious and secular; traditional yet attracted to Western consumerism; rigid but reformist; rich and poor; obedient yet highly educated; private yet open. It is a country where customs and ancient rules are revered, where clerical conservatism battles modernism, where “westernization” is an outlawed term, and one can be imprisoned for non-conformist thoughts. But it is also permanently unsettled, rebellious, a place where young people are leading an underground, uncoordinated but very real revolution. A place where women must be covered and are afraid to be photographed, but who wear their colorful scarves inched backward and short-cut manteaus closely outlining their bosoms and hips. 

Working in Iran, I found these dichotomies enthralling, but it was important to resist a false romanticism. The multi-faceted and intricate layers of life in Iran required extensive time spent observing, understanding and then photographing the nuances in the daily life of individuals. Its past is always profoundly present, showing up in vividly saturated colors alongside the much darker colors associated with political propaganda, religious fundamentalism and deception. Ultimately, there is only one thing that is certain about Iran’s future: it is subject to change.

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