Photographs by Karen Mirzoyan on exhibit November 29, 2011 - January 22, 2012 at The Half King
In February, 2010, I went to Tehran to look at the 31st anniversary of the Revolution. When I found rock musicians practicing in soundproof basements, I found people waiting for a second Revolution. Playing rock music in Iran is a risky business. The penalty for getting caught ranges from fines to flogging to jail. Over the course of ten days of trying to get musicians to trust me, I wound up photographing seven bands in two recording studios. By the end of my stay I had also collected images of the statecraft being cooked up on TV that week, and of ordinary citizens going about their lives.
It’s old form to shoot TV, but I wanted to try to mix it with my rock bands, to show the celebration of the Revolution in color: beautiful—but artificial. I shot the rock bands in an opposite way. No TV pixels, all in black and white. They are more real, and doing something that nobody on TV would ever talk about. They are really underground, and the light is like hope, but also like torture, when strong light is shone on eyes.
For the photos I took of daily life, I wanted to present a basic picture of what it looks like in Tehran. I focused on the color green because it’s the color of Iran’s opposition and the young generation.
Caption above: February, 2010. State TV broadcast of former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini commenting on the Tir 7th bombing attack in 1981, which killed the second most powerful leader in Iran, Chief Justice Beheshti—along with 72 members of the Islamic Republic Party. Khomeini’s words along the top—hypocrites, and conspiracy—refer to the people responsible for the attack.
February, 2010. Soheil Olfat, guitar player for the band Azhirock. When I took his portrait, music was on, and he wanted to show his expression.
February, 2010. Someone silhouetted in a Tehran apartment window. Inside apartments and homes is where citizens have the most freedom to do what they like.
February, 2010. TV image of the Azadi Tower, built in 1971 to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. Once known as Shahyad, meaning “Kings’ Memorial,” it was renamed Azadi, meaning “Freedom,” after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
February, 2010. Row 1, l to r: A member of the band Hang; same; Aydin Zahedi, former guitarist of the band Malcontent.
Row 2, l to r: studio poster of Nirvana; singer from the band 5grs; Sevan Shahmirian from the band Wednesday Call.
Row 3, l to r: Kasra Momeni, guitarist from Azhirock and 5grs; Sharooz, vocalist from the band S-Cold; S-Cold with, in the middle, Amirhossein, co-owner of MA record studio.
February, 2010. A girl and her friend smoke the Nargile (hookah) at a cafe. Young people who aren’t married or engaged are not allowed to be seen together in intimacy outside the home—except for a few places where the Nargile is offered.
February, 2010. Hang, a popular band in Tehran. They never show their faces in videos or in photos or onstage. I asked to take their picture without masks but they agreed only if the photo didn’t show their faces.
February, 2010. TV image of a news broadcaster commenting on the 31st anniversary of the Revolution.
February, 2010. The Stone Garden of Jamshidieh, in the north of Tehran. At this park, young people come at night to be together without fear. It’s forbidden for young women and men to walk together and hold hands if they’re not engaged or married, but here at night, they have a little freedom.
February, 2010. The band Azhirock rehearses in a recording studio. Babak Farrokhi sings.
February, 2010. TV image of politicians in Tehran praying to honor the Revolution.