By Lynne Guey
Los Angeles is home to the world’s largest population of Iranian expatriates. And now some of their stories are being told.
“Document: Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles” is a collection of photographs and images about 39 second-generation Iranian Americans living in Los Angeles and is on exhibit at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. The lens brings into view the artists behind the camera as much as the subjects themselves, since each photographer has a unique perspective.
The exhibit is a collaborative effort between curator Amy Malek, a UCLA doctoral student in anthropology, and each of four Iranian-American photographers – Farhad Parsa, Arash Saedinia, Parisa Taghizadeh and Ramin Talaie.
“The exhibition intends to bring to the forefront the work of the photographers mainly as a conversation with the Iranian-American subjects. In the process, they deconstruct and unlock the narrative within the images,” said Betsy Quick, director of education at the Fowler Museum.
The voices of the photographers also emerge from the exhibition by the way the photos are displayed. Images are arranged not by subject, age or occupation, but by photographer, each with a wall to his or her own. There are four walls total in display.
“There would be a connection between us (photographer and subject), just by the fact that we were both Iranian American,” said Talaie, who is based in New York City. … “There’s a process of learning which comes from every human interaction. I wouldn’t just photograph them but I would get a quick interview with them about their life and background to try to find some similarities and connections.”
Taghizadeh, who is based in Los Angeles, found her connection with Iranian American artists and photographed many of them practicing their craft.
“Since I feel most connected to them (artists), I thought I could get the most authentic and genuine portraits when they were in motion. But I also photographed them stationary in contained settings. It’s important that the subjects are best represented in both contexts,” said Taghizadeh.
“I wasn’t trying to capture anything that was explicitly Iranian about them. Yes, I have the connection, the lineage, the common experience that links me with them. But in terms of photography, it doesn’t matter,” Taghizadeh said.
Subjects are pictured at home, work, places of worship or during recreation. They range in age from 4 to 48 and represent everything from reserved working class car mechanic to plastic surgeon.
“Since we have such a large number of Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles, we wanted to use the exhibition as a demonstration of the connection between global and local,” said Quick. “The exhibit is all about the photographers and subjects struggling to meet the requirements of a more conservative culture in America, fitting in and retaining their Iranian identities.”
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