A cluster of Mandaeans convene at the open shores of the Karun River on a bright Sunday for the baptism ceremony of a recently married couple. During the ceremony, the mother-of-the-bride has an asthma attack and removes herself from the proceedings, so as not to make a scene. The city of Ahvaz carries the title of world’s most air-polluted, and many suffer from respiratory illness because of it.
“The photographer chooses the event she photographs,” Berger writes. “This choice can be thought of as a cultural construction. The space for this construction is, as it were, cleared by his rejection of what she did not choose to photograph.”
The photographer hands the mother-of-the-bride a tissue, and standing above her, captures her blowing her nose. Her hands are spotted with age. Further downshore, where the river eddies, bags and bottles caked in silt amass in a pile. A bloated, dead cow bobs like a buoy at the river’s edge. They exist, only outside the frame.
I was able to start a collaborative photography project named "A sacred and Sullied space" with the support of the Magnum Foundation. The project became a learning experience for me with collaboration and help of Sasha von Oldershausen and other expert advisors.
In August 2016,five collaborative teams were selected by an independent jury to explore the topic of religion with production grants made possible by the Henry Luce foundation. Photography in collaboration can produce uniquely effective storytelling and expand our knowledge of the politically significant and vastly complex ways that religion impacts our lives.
Throughout a journey into the Mandaeans's world and everyday lives and practices, this story explores the untold dimensions of being an ethnoreligious minority in Ahvaz, in southwestern Iran. The Mandaeans believe that natural flowing waters are pure, sacred, and life-giving, despite this, the Karun river, in which they practice their religious rituals, is becoming ever more polluted. They baptize in the Karun, imbibe it, and worship it. The sacred yet sullied river blurs the boundaries of the long-existing dichotomy of sacredness of religiosity and profanity of contamination, as the Mandaeans are occasionally and arbitrarily labeled as Najis, ritually unclean, by the Muslim community of Ahvaz. This twofold tension between the Mandaeans' imagery of the purity of the Karun river and the Muslim community's image of Mandaeans as ritually unclean as well as the reality of the pollution of the Karun river shape the story. https://vimeo.com/210645080
PondyPHOTO, a biennale festival initiated by PondyART, is a platform where art and education attempt to break existing social barriers, by presenting visually impactful photography-oriented events focused on today’s social and environmental issues in public spaces. The theme for PondyPHOTO 2016 is WATER.
My work, "The Eyes Of Earth" will be featured in PondyPhoto 2016.
THE KITCHEN SINK – Curated by Cheryl Newman, UK http://pondyphoto.com/eventspre-events/exhibitions/
Iran’s Lake Urmia once boasted flocks of flamingos and swarms of tourists eager to swim in salty waters that covered an area more than twice the size of Luxembourg. Today, it more closely resembles a desert, littered with rusted cruise ships and beached docks (right). According to a 2014 report by an international consortium of scientists, Urmia has shrunk by a staggering 88 percent since the 1970s. Droughts are partly to blame, but the primary culprits are dams and irrigation projects that divert the lake’s water sources. President Hassan Rouhani’s government pledged $5 billion for conservation efforts in 2014, but Iranian photographer Solmaz Daryani, whose family lives near Urmia, worries that may be too little, too late. Her photography of the desiccated landscape aims “to investigate the impact on [people] around the lake and document what she describes as one of Iran’s “most unfortunate environmental disasters.
Delighted that Lake Urmia project will be featured and introduced by long-time National Geographic Senior Photo Editor Elizabeth Cheng Krist during her Visura Instagram Takeover. The series "The eyes of Earth" investigates the impact the drying of Urmia Lake has had on the surrounding population. Located in northwest Iran, Urmia Lake was the biggest salt lake in the Middle East and the sixth-largest saltwater lake on earth. During the past ten years, approximately 80% of the lake dried up due to climatic changes, poor agricultural water management, the damming of feeder rivers, and extraction of groundwater through thousands of illegal wells.
22 December 2015: The winners of the sixth and final edition of the IdeasTap Photographic Award, in association with Magnum Photos, have been announced. The selected photographers – Yasaman Dehmiyani, Emin Ozmen, Solmaz Daryani and Dominika Gesicka – will receive a grant of £2,500, enabling them to complete a body of work to be showcased at Magnum Print Rooms in London in July 2016. View article, here.