I want to start a new series on my blog called “why I do what I do” – hoping to provide more color on some of the decisions that I am making in life. I plan to dwell on what drives me and what I hope to achieve.
Given that I am sitting on a flight to Iran while I am writing this, I want to dedicate this piece to my love and passion for this country. And I would like to explain why I am so engaged in promoting Iran through exhibitions, photo books, online projects and group travels.
Ever since I moved away from Germany, I came to the realization that I consider myself much more Iranian than German. Which is surprising if you consider that I was neither born in Iran, nor did I ever live there. Both my parents were in their early 20s when they moved from Iran to Germany, yet they made a great effort to ensure that I would know and understand my Iranian heritage. From speaking the language at home, to the food, to regular visits to our families in Tehran and Mashad. Admittedly though, part of my identification with Iran is a result of my alienation with Germany, but that’s a whole different story.
Over the years however, I traveled to Iran less and less. From once a year until I was 16, to once every two years during college, and eventually once every three years when I started working. I wasn’t any less interested in Iran, but life had taken over.
Everything changed in late summer of 2014, when made the bold decision to travel through Iran with three of my college friends from Germany. They had been nagging me for years and I felt the time had come for me to experience Iran differently. You know, up until that point, each visit to Iran was with family to visit family. And as great of an experience that was, it was the only way I had gotten to know Iran. I literally did not have a single like-minded friend – until that one trip.
That trip changed everything because for the following 12 days, I experienced Iran from a different angle. Through Instagram I connected with same-aged folks who had a shared interest in expressing themselves through photography. I won’t forget our first day in Tehran when 20+ young Iranians showed up in a park to welcome my friends and I.
When I came back from that trip, I wanted to share all the beautiful images and stories that we had experienced. I felt so honored and privileged to have experienced Iran so intensely and beautifully, and I consequently felt compelled to share that experience with as many people as possible.
Why did Iran always have to be so mis-portrayed in media? Why don’t people realize that there is a big difference between the politics of the country and its people who are probably the most hospitable people on earth (don’t wanna take my word? Go and read some reviews). So I decided to host a 1-month long exhibition and published a photography book to reach even more people and to change the way how they think about Iran.
15 months later in September of 2016, after I had settled into my new business school life, I went back to Iran and simultaneously participated in my second round of exhibitions, this time as part of an artist collective that recently had it’s second showing with many more on the horizon (it was so simultaneous, I actually had to dial in from Iran via Skype for the opening).
Now, only 6 weeks later in November of 2016, I am sitting on a plane with 10 classmates whom I am taking on a 9-day trip across the country.
Just before our departure, one of the participants asked me what my motivation is. I paused for a second to gather my thoughts and then went on to explain to him that there are very few people in my life that have actually seen the Iranian part of my identity. Most people – especially those in the Western world in which I was born, raised, and where I currently live – have never really gotten to interact with the Iranian part of who I am. This trip will hopefully bridge this gap and allow 10 of my friends to get to know my other (better?) half.