Italian photographer Matteo Lonardi headed to Tehran to learn about the country away from the news headlines and through its artistsTehran Bureau, The Guardian
In secondary school in Italy I was taught art as a form of understanding our predecessors. Teachers compared the harmonious proportions of classical Greek statues to the social equilibrium achieved in Athens in the fourth century BC, and linked Picasso’s Guernica to the horrors of the Spanish civil war.
I was fascinated by the connection between art and history. A few years later, after moving to New York for college, this connection appeared to me not in history books but in the studios of Indian artists.
In the summer of 2010 I was an intern in New Delhi at The Little Magazine, an arts and culture publication. The editor asked me to make an archive of works the magazine was publishing. The first day she gave me a list of names and cab fare.
At each studio, I photographed a few works. Soon I started interviewing and photographing the artists in their work spaces as well. I realised the stories and the images together offered interesting insights into Indian society and politics.
Afterwards I continued the project in Italy, Morocco and New York. A few years later, at Columbia Journalism School, I applied as a team of fellow students for a grant to continue the project as multimedia.
We chose Iran as a place to look at through its artists. We felt that media’s relationship to Iran had been based on stereotypes and one-dimensional portrayals. The idea was to talk about Iran through art instead of politics. The project, called Reframe Iran, uses photo, video and virtual reality components.
When I arrived in Tehran and began interviewing and photographing visual artists I realised that my idea of looking at a place through artists’ perspectives was naïve. Iranian art, as made today, is largely based on concepts imported from the west. So how could I understand a place through a language brought from the same place I was from?
I don’t want to pretend that I’ve solved this intellectual issue or that this series of pictures will solve the problem of how the western media portrays Iran, but I like to think it can help add some nuance to the picture.
ReframeIran published in partnership with The Tehran Bureau.
Via The Guardian