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IRAN, some photos
Old 05-01-2014   #1
Andrea Taurisano
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IRAN, some photos

I just came back from a 10 days trip to Iran. This was not one of my solo journeys, it was a vacation with my girlfriend - and that changes everything.. That means that what I'm sharing here is nothing I'm particularly proud of (photographically speaking), but I know that there are many here who are interested in travels in less touristic corners of the world, and Iran is definitely one I would recommend wholeheartedly.

For the historical sites and towns, and of course the Persian culture it is soaked with, Iran is a truly fantastic country. Its people are among the most sociable and hospitable I’ve ever met (maybe only second to their neighbors of Afghanistan), to the point that they sometimes can be perceived as a bit invasive or pushy by “colder” north-European travelers. Iranian people are not fanatic “flag burners” who demonize western culture and hate western people. On the contrary, they show a very intelligent ability to think on their own, separating political tensions (and propaganda) between countries, from the daily life of their people, who are pretty much alike across the world in wishing peace and prosperity for themselves and others..

One feels generally very safe (I’d say safer than in many European cities) when walking in the streets, even alone and at night. Women traveling alone may definitely experience some undesired attentions though. But the only truly scary factor is the traffic: Iranians do appear to have their driving “rules”, or more properly their ways to cope with heavy and fast moving traffic in total lack of rules, but a terribly high number of people do get killed each year in car crashes on the roads of Iran, and you definitely feel this may happen to you at any time, either you’re sitting on a cab or trying to cross a road..

Anyway, for those who wonder what I photographed with.. here below is all the gear I took with me, plus 1 spare battery. Nothing more.

Here is what you may check out, if interested:

http://ilcimento.wordpress.com/pages-in-color/iran/
Iran - Ruined my usual way


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Old 05-01-2014   #2
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Nice pix. Thanks for posting. Odd choice for a holiday destination. Whats that weird package taped to the camera? Also, did your girlfriend get hassled for being in the company of a man she's not married/related to? Did you have to pay for two hotel rooms everywhere? Do they have religious/morality police that stop and hassle people n the streets? Questions...
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Old 05-01-2014   #3
Andrea Taurisano
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Originally Posted by funkydog View Post
Whats that weird package taped to the camera? Also, did your girlfriend get hassled for being in the company of a man she's not married/related to? Did you have to pay for two hotel rooms everywhere? Do they have religious/morality police that stop and hassle people n the streets? Questions...
That, on top of the camera, is a GoPro camera (for superwide shots in narrow places like bazars..). No one hassled us for not being married. In fact, we wore fake wedding rings the first days, but no one, and I mean not the border police, not the receptionists as we aked for a double room or anyone else, cared about that so we dropped them soon. And we never saw so such thing as religious or morality police. In fact once I stopped to talk to normal police in Shiraz and we ended up joking and laughing about them, their not allowing me to photograph them and so on. A visit to Iran shakes lots of prejudices away from us western travelers, I can promise..
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Old 05-01-2014   #4
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... great photos Andrea, and nice to hear a first hand account of ordinary people
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Old 05-01-2014   #5
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Really nice photo's!
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Old 05-01-2014   #6
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Very nice series, many familiar spots to my eye - looks like you've been to Esfahan, Shiraz, Yazd(?) Did you go to Dash-e-Kavir or Dasht-e-Lut deserts as well?

Aaand why o' why didn't you take a proper film camera!? :P

Saying this because I did too few film shots myself in Iran both times (mostly digital, like you) and Iran is one of my favourite countries while I've visited nearly half of countries in the world. Next time I go I'll definitely take only a film camera since ironically lookling at my own Iran pics the film stands out bringing forth this true Iran soul and revoking memories out of me, despite there's a lot few of them compared to digital shots.

I've done two independent solo-motorcycle expeditions (just with my wife, unguided and unplanned schedule) to Iran in 2005 (back at the time when there were virtually no tourists) and 2010 (then I already saw tourists) so experienced Iranian traffic first hand being the "weaker" player in the brutal game, had many close calls in thousands of kilometers I've ridden on most Iran, especially in the crowded cities they're just reckless usual Middle-Eastern "Allah will protect me (or kill me, but thus shall my true faith)" type of drivers . Thankfully many iranians instantly notice the unusal large 1100cc fully loaded motorcycle (their maximum allowed by law is 250cc, only police can have bigger motorcycle) so fortunately many who notice slow down immediately and create sort of safety zone around you within havoc while they observe you, wave their hands through the windows, shout and greet you. Iranians are really proud of their country and heritage, and righfully so.

Iranians truly are a special breed of people in terms of hospitality, I've never experienced so much hospitality anywhere else in the world.

Cheers for bringing back many good memories!

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Old 05-01-2014   #7
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What fantastic shots! I especially like the portraits.

It's really nice to get a view of the place that doesn't come from the news
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Old 05-01-2014   #8
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Yes, good stuff and good information about Iran. Thanks.
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Old 05-01-2014   #9
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Thanks for posting something positive about Iran, was it an organised or informal trip?
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Old 05-01-2014   #10
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Originally Posted by steveclem View Post
Thanks for posting something positive about Iran, was it an organised or informal trip?
It was a privately organized trip by me and my girlfriend. No groups, no guides as usual.
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Old 05-01-2014   #11
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Saying this because I did too few film shots myself in Iran both times (mostly digital, like you) and Iran is one of my favourite countries while I've visited nearly half of countries in the world.
You've been to a little less than a hundred countries Margus? I'm not callig you out, but that seems like a lot. Anyway, I've been wanting to visit Iran for a while myself as well and I was wondering what some of your favorite countries are? Did you do everything/most things by motorcycle?
I'm a great fan of your stories/blog/photographs and you seem to know your ****, so that's always interesting.
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Old 05-01-2014   #12
Andrea Taurisano
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Originally Posted by tsiklonaut View Post
Very nice series, many familiar spots to my eye - looks like you've been to Esfahan, Shiraz, Yazd(?) Did you go to Dash-e-Kavir or Dasht-e-Lut deserts as well?

Aaand why o' why didn't you take a proper film camera!? :P
Indeed, good guess. We were in Esfahan, Shiraz, Persepolis and Yazd, including a trip into the desert southeast of this city.

And believe me, I thought long of bringing the GR1v and 10 rolls of film instead (which I had even bought!), but then the choice fell on traveling even lighter without film boxes but with only the digital GR. I know that the colors of Kodak film would have been nicer than what I get from quick processing of the digital files, but as I said.. this was holiday, not photography. Photography for me means beeing alone, like during my Trans-Siberian last winter.. and then it's indeed film I take along.
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Old 05-01-2014   #13
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these were very good, including the road shots. your definition of "ruined" is an interesting one. i personally loved the "ruined" shots a lot.
but they point to a completely different reality.
I think you have been carefully picking the pictures to "ruin": it doesn't look like a random choice: almost all of them are grab shots from an "outsider" who is not in ease and kind of in a hurry in unfamiliar streets: and therefore depicting a much more gloomier, darker and a depressive place.
this could have been the entire character of the set, if you wanted it to be that way..and would still be very convincing, and we would all be talking about the sad state of Iran.
but there is another aspect to the whole thing: the traveler that pauses engages and communicates and establishes contact and trust with locals: and eventually he/she will see the human side of them.
you have done both here!
it just shows you the power of photography to reflect a person's point of view (and intention) vs an objective truth or reality.
as always pictures tell more about the photographer than its subject.
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Old 05-01-2014   #14
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Andrea,

Very enjoyale pictures and commentary.
Thank you !
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Old 05-01-2014   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrea Taurisano View Post
and then it's indeed film I take along.
Semi-Offropic: Yep, the same reasons for me. Lately I'm forcing myself on film even on short holidays and so far I found it's been worth it despite it's a lot more work, but in the end and first I feel tired, but few weeks after I'm almost always hearwarmed looking at the photos, each with unique analog character and drawing out the true soul of the place just the way I wanted to from artistic perspective. The digitals somehow draw things "flat" and rather un-inspiring for me, while on similar circumstances I've found film travel shots just get my imagination going about the place.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tijmendal View Post
You've been to a little less than a hundred countries Margus? I'm not callig you out, but that seems like a lot. Anyway, I've been wanting to visit Iran for a while myself as well and I was wondering what some of your favorite countries are? Did you do everything/most things by motorcycle?
I'm a great fan of your stories/blog/photographs and you seem to know your ****, so that's always interesting.
Offtopic: thanks. I quickly counted 91 countries I've been to, it isn't much since I haven't been doing this for the 'count'. My favourites are in no particular order: Yemen, Iran, Pakistan, (pre-War) Syria, India, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Angola, Mali, Mozambique, Chile, Belize, East-Timor. All maybe because I've visited with a motorcycle, making the experience somewhat different.


Now let's back to the original topic - the author Andrea has posted a awesomely beautiful insight image series into Iran! Iran indeed is unfairly bashed by western-media, if you go there, you get to see how fantastic the (actually one of the oldest-) country (in the World) is, it's long heritage is and it's people are.

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Old 05-01-2014   #16
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One of the thoughts I had often in Iran was actually a sad one, as so much reminded me of the equally wonderful landscapes, culture and people of Afghanistan. Seing all that relative but still surprising wealth and prosperity in Iran, and meeting lots of well educated and even English fluent Iranians, as opposite to the overwhelming poverty, malnutrition and analphabetism of the people I met in the Hindu Kush (see that story in my documentary section, if interested), made me just wish from the bottom of my heart a better future for Afghanistan and its fantastic people..
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Old 05-01-2014   #17
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That is really great. I want to go to Iran, too, but I am afraid of their fanatical reputation. Turns out that, clearly, they are not. I read somewhere recently that there are actually private and secret drinking holes all over the place. Is that right? I really cannot travel anywhere without getting pissed.

Were you able to walk about freely without getting hassled by the secret police? What about people's attitudes to strangers?
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Old 05-01-2014   #18
Andrea Taurisano
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That is really great. I want to go to Iran, too, but I am afraid of their fanatical reputation. Turns out that, clearly, they are not. I read somewhere recently that there are actually private and secret drinking holes all over the place. Is that right? I really cannot travel anywhere without getting pissed.

Were you able to walk about freely without getting hassled by the secret police? What about people's attitudes to strangers?
Well, I can't promise you that you'll never meet a fanatic there (like everywhere else), but I am and look western (Italian with a Norwegian passport) and I did speak to dozens of random people in different Iranian cities. If there was any real fanatism against us I would probably have noticed. Instead, I and my girlfriend were spontaneously welcomed to Iran by so many strangers in the streets, and were spoken warmly to by all those we stopped to ask for information, by our taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, and perfect strangers that I can absolutely say.. try and see. As I said above, haven't seen any secret police (perhaps cause secret police don't drive cars with "secret police" signs on..). We were never stopped by the ordninary police, and those we stopped to talk to, were friendly and welcoming like N.Y. cops are to tourists.

But one thing I have to warn you against: Iran is not the place to travel to with plans about drinking alchool. I guess some Iranians do indulge in alchool and even smoke stuff, but privately and discretely in case, not in bars or tea-houses (there you can smoke water pipes at most). Even talking to ordinary people about a wish to drink alchool, or asking about secret places where this is possible, would offend most of them. I would avoid. And by all means, never have alchool or drugs with you while entering or visiting the country. You just don't wanna be arrested there. PS: The Lonely Planet guide about Iran contains a lot of info about these questions..
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Old 05-01-2014   #19
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As of drinking - yes it's possible, but only if you get to know in-depth family and they'll invite you for an evening and sleeping out at their place. There will be home brewed arak-like rather heavy drink on offer after eating, BUT only done behind closed doors and in a very civilized- and usually limited manner, even with mild drinking you most cases cannot leave on the streets (for an obvious reason - the speciefic smells on you ) It's really a private 'secret tradition' (although done for centuries, and publically before the islamic revolution) and practiced just by few iranian families these days. It's certanly not some mass-drinking thing as wrongly claimed by some people.

Mass drinking in Iran is: black tea! By far and in massive amounts of tea's caffeine (very dark-strong tea), and unreal amounts of sugar (sometimes 1/4 of the glass is filled with sugar)! For the first few days I love it, but after many days of this my stomatch starts to protest although the irianian people keep inviting you for a tea everywhere, even in the bank office you often get tea and a very long chat with the banker and their staff who're all very curious of the outside world and also about your opinion on Iran. I've literally seen tears coming from iranian's eyes when I honestly voice out how I love Iran (since they know they're mostly negatively bashed by western media and opinions)
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Old 05-01-2014   #20
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Andrea, great shots...really a wonderful peek behind an unknown curtain, certainly for the average American like me.

Since this is RFF, I'm sure you expect some tech questions so here goes...

I like the Ricoh GR too...almost my favorite camera. Your color images...did you add grain? I love the look...the organic feel is warmer and more personal than the cold clarity of a shot right off the sensor.

Also, I understand it was personal travel. Did you ever feel very constrained by not having a lens longer than 28mm (equivalent)?

I traveled to Paris with only a Ricoh GR and had a great time...it was very freeing, in fact. I'm leaving again shortly, and your timely post has convinced me to just take the GR again.

BTW...My favorite of your images were the B&W in your usual style

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Old 05-01-2014   #21
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Originally Posted by Andrea Taurisano View Post
But one thing I have to warn you against: Iran is not the place to travel to with plans about drinking alchool.
That can be easily arranged but will require making friends with some hip locals. The added benefit is that you will be invited to their homes and/or small parties (as indeed you won't be doing any drinking in public) Step 1: make friends with locals; Step 2: get invited to their home or alternatively Step 3: go with them to a local Armenian dealer and acquire alcohol. Warning: you will likely be drinking some vile stuff (unless you get lucky with some smuggled-in quality stuff or get stuff produced for self-consumption), so prepare for a raging headache the next morning
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Old 05-01-2014   #22
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Your color images...did you add grain? I love the look...the organic feel is warmer and more personal than the cold clarity of a shot right off the sensor.

Also, I understand it was personal travel. Did you ever feel very constrained by not having a lens longer than 28mm (equivalent)?
Hi David!
Yes, I did add grain and did some contrast / brightness adjustment to get away from the razor sharp and sterile digital look and at least one step closer to film look.. Not much postprocessing actually, in fact I even shot directly in JPG.

I didn't feel VERY constraint by having a 28mm only, but there were indeed times where a 35 or even 50 mm would have been much better. The portraits to mention just one case. I love them with really shallow DOF, like the one I'm pasting below from my trip to Afghanistan (M9 & cron 50 @f2, which says everything..). I think I'm going to give the X100s a try, especially now that they announced a 50 mm converter that retains the good look at f2... But the GR is a gem..

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Old 05-01-2014   #23
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These are really, really wonderful images. I especially love the insight into a world that I must admit I do not know much about. Well done!
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Old 05-01-2014   #24
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Andrea...oops. Forgot the image. I've NEVER done that
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Old 05-01-2014   #25
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Andrea- I enjoy your work very much and follow your blog. I specially liked ruined my usual way images…. good work.
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Old 05-01-2014   #26
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Also...if you intend to carry an X100s and a 50mm converter, you might as well carry the FF M9. I have both...there is very little difference in size once you get that converter on the X100 body.

Here's a crazy idea, a la Thomas Dworzak/Anders Petersen. Take two different compacts. Anders shoots mostly Contax T3, but also some Ricoh GRv for wider...film, I know. In my own case, Ricoh GR for 28mm and Canon EOS M + 22/2 for 35mm. Both very small, fit in a bag or pouch, little Canon for portraits at f2, GR for everything else. the EOS M is slow to focus, but come on, it's a portrait right? About $200 or so.

The right tool for the job, I say. Of course, I like shooting my M9 for the shooting experience, but the compacts can and do bring home the goods.
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Old 05-01-2014   #27
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Anyone notice a huge cultural difference? Shiite muslims seem to be more cool about having their picture taken than (sunni) muslims in other countries.
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Old 05-01-2014   #28
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Anyone notice a huge cultural difference? Shiite muslims seem to be more cool about having their picture taken than (sunni) muslims in other countries.
... no, did you? ... I noticed how relaxed it all seemed
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Old 05-01-2014   #29
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Also...if you intend to carry an X100s and a 50mm converter, you might as well carry the FF M9. I have both...there is very little difference in size once you get that converter on the X100 body.

Here's a crazy idea, a la Thomas Dworzak/Anders Petersen. Take two different compacts. Anders shoots mostly Contax T3, but also some Ricoh GRv for wider...film, I know. In my own case, Ricoh GR for 28mm and Canon EOS M + 22/2 for 35mm. Both very small, fit in a bag or pouch, little Canon for portraits at f2, GR for everything else. the EOS M is slow to focus, but come on, it's a portrait right? About $200 or so.

The right tool for the job, I say. Of course, I like shooting my M9 for the shooting experience, but the compacts can and do bring home the goods.
Well, there are so many possible combinations.. When I want film, I have already enough to choose from (GR1v, Hexar AF, M6 w 35cron, pinhole camera..). For when I want to go digital - which is not that often actually - I have only the GR right now. If Ricoh made a digital GR with a 45 or 50mm f2 (or even f2.8 as long as the closest focusing distance is max 40 - 50 cm), they'd make me a happy man... Then I'd go away with the two digital GR cameras, one 28 and one 50 mm, same charger, same spare batteries, same size.
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Old 05-01-2014   #30
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Andrea...totally, totally agreed. Even a Ricoh 35mm FoV (23mm?) would have a great perspective.
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Old 05-01-2014   #31
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Very nice, I commend you on your sense of adventure and great photo documentary!
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