IRAN

The other face of Tehran

After years spent in Los Angeles, Azad returns to live in Tehran. He wanders his vast and rambling town capturing these striking images on his simple mobile phone. His message: ‘Don't believe what they tell you; life goes on in Tehran'.

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After years spent in Los Angeles, Azad returns to live in Tehran. He wanders his vast and rambling town capturing these striking images on his simple mobile phone. His message: ‘Don't believe what they tell you; life goes on in Tehran'.

Left picture: Fun walled in. Pretty much like everything else in this town.

Right picture: Playing cards is illegal in Iran. But that just makes them more fun and more available. As in the US, we play for peanuts; a $10 buy-in is the max per person in this group of friends. And even then the winners usually give back their winnings so that there isn't any real gambling.

 

Left picture: Contrary to the American rules of the game, in Iran guys give their phone numbers to girls. If she wants to, she makes the first call. It's a much better system for guys; because they don't have to worry about when to call, and then wait for her to call back and so on. You just sit back and chill!

Right picture: A businessman on the metro. Unlike Paris and New York where the subway systems are super hot and smelly during the summer, Tehran's metro is very cold and not as stinky. This should continue until the air-conditioning starts breaking down. Then no one will bother fixing it.

 

Left picture: I had to sit in on a boring ‘driver's education class’ for five days in a row as the first step towards obtaining my Iranian driver's license. When asked whether I really have to take these courses considering that I've been driving for 12 years, the supervisor replied: "Even if Schumacher came to Iran, he would have to take these courses."

Right picture: Five-year-olds from the poor areas of southern Tehran are dropped off in middle-class neighbourhoods of northern Tehran to sell Hafez fortune envelopes, pirate DVDs and Scotch Brite. They're sneaky little fellows! But also a sad reminder of the high percentage of those who live way below poverty levels.

 

Left picture: A butcher preparing meat. These "protein shops" sell only Halal meat (the Islamic version of Kosher). Pork is considered Haram (not Kosher) and therefore illegal and not sold anywhere in Iran. So you might miss a bit of bacon in your burger.

Right picture: There are so many doctors in [northern] Tehran that you see them gathering in groups in every other building, with street signs that resemble small shopping centres. Many of these doctors are educated in the US or Europe. And they make a point of letting people know it, as German-educated dentists do.

 

Azad’s commentary

It started out as me trying to share photos of my new life in Tehran with my friends back in Los Angeles. When I was leaving LA they were all really worried for me, because they had this impression that I was stepping into a war zone! After the first set of photos and the reactions I got from my friends I realised how little people know about daily life in Iran. So I started the site to remind people that life goes on in Tehran.

It's also a way to contest international opinion about my country. Because when all you see and hear from Iran are either controversial quotes from a crazy President or images of terrorists that Iran allegedly supports, you get this idea of Iran being this huge military camp where only violent fanatics meet to mastermind evil. The reality of the matter is far from it. Iranians are kind and loving people who are in fact very hospitable. Their daily lives goes on regardless of what their pseudo-elected President says on their behalf. That said, I try not to have a tourist-like view of the city. When you talk about the life that goes on, you have to discuss everything about it. The good and the bad. My goal is to paint a realistic picture of Tehran.

I never plan photo shoots. Almost all the photos featured are spontaneous photos taken using my camera phone from my immediate surroundings.

On my blog, I've received a lot of commentaries and have had visitors from over 100 countries. The majority of which come from the United States, the UK and Germany. Many of them are Iranians living abroad who thank me for showcasing photos that they can share with their non-Iranian friends. I also get many emails from Westerners who congratulate me for showing a side of Iran that they didn't know existed."

More pictures and details on his blog.