|Tahereh Fallahzadeh. Untitled, 1997. ©Tahereh Fallahzadeh. Courtesy Baxter St and Forbes.|
“The enemy of photography is the convention . . . the salvation of photography comes from the experiment.” Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion.
The first known photographer who arrived in Iran was Jules Richard, a French language tutor. He took daguerreotypes of Mohammad Shah and his son, the crown prince, Naser al-Din Mirza. The latter, took a serious interest in photography after his coronation as Shah in 1848. Within a decade, new photographic techniques were introduced in Iran by the several photographers active in Tehran. Fascinated by photography and its potential, the Shah created the position of a court photographer, and the Gulistan Palace was equipped with a darkroom and photographic studio.
By the 1870s, there were several independent photographers in Tehran, including Antoin Sevruguin, who made photographs at a time:
. . . when orientalist fervor was at its height and Europeans were using photographic images to construct and confirm their notions of the Orient . . . Sevruguin used his camera to construct counter-representations. . . [and] allowed the people in front of his camera to compose themselves according to how they themselves wished to be seen, according to their own myths and realities. (Iranian Studies, 35:1-3, 114.)
Sevruguin’s photographs of landscapes and people were published in international newspapers, magazines and books as early as 1885. Trained as a painter, Sevruguin also tended to manipulate his photographs, personalizing and enhancing their dramatic effects by retouching them.