The first major survey of contemporary Iranian photography in the United States, Persian Visions includes sixty works of photography and video installations by twenty of Iran’s most celebrated photographers. It represents a gathering of personal perspectives, with the view of contemporary Iran filtered through private, individual sensibilities even when addressing public concerns. The exhibition comes to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art as part of a national tour.
In the wake of the Revolution and during Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s, photography in Iran was largely public, photojournalistic, even propagandistic. In the period since, there has been a turn toward private and aesthetic concerns, driven in part by new support for the use of photography as an artistic medium in the universities, and by a network of galleries, publications, and friendships within the photographic community and the broader art and media worlds. There are still proscriptions, however: no nudity can be shown, and no sensitive issues, especially political questions concerning the regime, can be addressed.
In expressing their many different visions of their world, the photographers in this exhibition offer a look at both private and public realms, whether exploring cultural and gender identity through self-portraits or family photographs, or drawing upon Persian traditions to comment on modern life, or recording their realities of daily life through observation and revelation. The artists represented here cannot entirely surmount the physical and cultural distance between Iran and the United States; nevertheless, this exhibition attempts to build a visual bridge that allows for differences even as it leads viewers to become aware of other ways of being and seeing.
Persian Visions was developed by Hamid Severi for the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran, and Gary Hallman of the Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota, and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC. This exhibition is supported in part by grants from the ILEX Foundation; the University of Minnesota McKnight Arts and Humanities Endowment; and the Department of Art, the Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota.
International Arts & Artists is a nonprofit arts service organization dedicated to promoting excellence in the arts and enriching cross-cultural understanding through its collaborations with museums and cultural institutions worldwide.