Iran: Visual Poetries
in Carleton-sur-Mer


Crossing through Time: Between Present and Past

Claudia Polledri, curator (Québec/Italy)

For our tenth anniversary, we have the privilege of presenting Iran: Visual Poetries, a circuit especially designed for Rencontres internationales de la photographie en Gaspésie.

“Divided into four segments, Iran: Visual Poetries offers a journey through contemporary artistic photography in Iran by way of the work of seventeen photographers, including Bahman Jalali (1944-2010) and Yahya Dehghanpour (born 1941). Added to these figures of reference in Iranian photography are numerous artists established on the international scene along with emerging photographers. The thrust of the exhibition is to examine the poetic reach of the photographic image, between knowing and imagination.

“The Iran: Visual Poetries circuit has taken shape in the wake of the exhibit Iran, année 38 (Iran, Year 38, 2017). Presented at Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles in France by Anahita Ghabaian (Silk Road Gallery) and Newsha Tavakolian (Magnum agency), it concluded with a tribute to Abbas Kiarostami and his ‘poetic cinema.’ But whereas the poetic quality of Iranian film has already been considered at some length, what can we make of the relationship between photography and poetry? This is what we wished to explore.

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“Far from being obvious, the expression “visual poetries” merits attention if only to open up the implicit association we make in it between text and image. Certainly, the reference that certain photographic works make to literary texts constitutes a first level of understanding of this exhibit, but not the only one. From the photographer-flâneur in Tehran (Fayez) inspired by Baudelairian texts we move to the ‘putting into images’ of the play The Butterly by Iranian dramatist Bijan Mofid to arrive at the allusion to T.S. Eliot under which Mohajer places his aerial photographs. The Persian poetic tradition, as ancient as it is modern, is also clearly evoked by the refence to Persian gardens, a literary and visual topos that Asfari refers to.

“Less explicit, but every bit as present, a second level of understanding is represented by reference to metaphor as a means of ‘transporting’ images. In addition to embodying that movement, the games of superpositions and transparencies that we find going on in Javadi, Jalali and Vosoughnia also become the opportunity to unveil the strata of history and Iranian visual culture in the twentieth century. We will see, finally, that the poetic dimension in photography is the expression of the register of sensitivity (Hedayat), of the ability to capture an atmosphere (Rezaei) or to transmit a contemplative or oneiric vision (Bassir, Naraghi, Sepehr), but also to formulate a thought through images (Dehghanpour) and to interpret the form shape of upheaval (Nadjian and Manouchehrzadeh, Kazemi). In that sense, while being the direct expression of a country’s culture conveyed by the numerous references to the Iranian social and political context – whose rough patches are measured, but so is the beauty that survives there – the reference to poetry bears witness more to the exchange between cultures than to the exploration of determined cultural framework. Which confirms, lastly, the po-ethic nature of photography, as a place to meet the other and to explore the human.

“This project has been carried out in collaboration with Silk Road Gallery in Tehran.

“I thank Hamed Yaghmaeian, Reza Sheikh and Germana Rivi for their support, and AG Galerie in Tehran for its participation. Special appreciation goes to Claude Goulet, director of Rencontres internationales de la photographie en Gaspésie, without whom this project would not have taken place.”

Claudia Polledri, curator

The artists Bahman Jalali, Mehdi Vosoughnia, Jalal Sephr, Shadi Ghadirian and Babak Kazemi are represented by Silk Road Gallery in Tehran.

Ghazaleh Rezaei is represented by AG Galerie in Tehran.


Segment 2: Crossing through Time: Between Present and Past

Artists: Ghazaleh Hedayat, Mehdi Vosoughnia, Ghazaleh Rezaei, Rana Javadi, Bahman Jalali

Poetry as a place where time bursts through.

Assembling images to cross through time: this is the unifying thread of the second segment of Iran: Visual Poetries. With Bahman Jalali (1944-2010), uncontested master of contemporary Iranian photography, we travel back to the era of Naser al-Dinh Shah Qajar and Ahmad Shah. This period between 1845 and 1924 is referred to as the “golden age” of photography. In the series Image of the Imagination, Jalali breathes new life into those aged pictures, which he reproduces and modifies through a brilliant game of superpositions, until, through the use of calligraphy, he creates pictorial effects. Ghazaleh Razei extends the faded atmosphere of that time with images of stucco, architectural details and floral motifs, traces of days gone by that she awakens through plays of light. The ghostly portraits of Mehdi Vosoughnia take us back to the Pahlavi era and restore the features of the luxurious Grand Hotel in the city of Qazvin, the setting for political incidents and, probably, the coup d’état of Reza Khan in 1921. Rana Javadi introduces us to the studios of Chehrenegar in Shiraz and Ajamian in Tehran by using old photos of these renowned photographers from the 1950s and ’60s. In her pictures, she manages to materialize time in the folds of the colored material covering the faces. Faces and gestures are involved in Ghazaleh Hedayat as well, details from family photos she observes behind the peephole of a door as one would observe an eclipse, wondering about time past and that to come. Like so many metaphors, these photographs transport within them not only other images, but also time. And here we are, “thought plunges into dream, and signs into images.” (Pascal Quignard)

Claudia Polledri, curator



Born in Tehran in 1979, Ghazaleh Hedayat is a graduate in photography of Azad University in that city and holds a New Genres MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She has been part of a number of individual and group exhibits in Iran – Azad Art, Silk Road and Khak galleries in Tehran – as well as abroad, including at the Dar Al Funoon gallery in Kuwait City and at San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts, as well as in Switzerland, Germany, Australia and elsewhere in the U.S. In 2004 she won a Murphy Fellowship from the San Francisco Foundation. She currently teaches photography at the University of Tehran and is an exhibition curator.

Ghazaleh Hedayat, Judas – Peepholes (2006)

Judas – Peepholes (2006)

“Peepholes is back-and-forth movement between darkness and lights, back and forth between my past and my future. Turned into a camera, the peephole led me to look before and after this eclipse.”

Ghazaleh Hedayat


Represented by Silk Road Gallery, Tehran.

Born in 1971 in the city of Qazvin, Mehdi Vosoughnia is a graduate in photography of the School of Art and Architecture, Azad University. He started taking photographs at the age of 17 by attending classes at the Iranian Youth Cinema Society. His focus is on cityscape and documentary photography, and he has won many prizes for photo series since 1991. In 2002 the Iranian Photographers House honored him in the student section.

He has held 12 solo and participated in 50 group exhibits, including in Tehran (“Anzali,” Silk Road Gallery, 2014, and “Père Lachaise,” Mehrva Gallery, 2010); Esfahan (“A Retrospective,” Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008); Tehran (“According to Iranian Photographers,” Mellat Art Gallery, 2013); Paris (“Voice of Vision,” Spéos Gallery, 2009); and Toronto (the 2nd “Six Weeks of Iranian Art,” Queen Gallery, 2012).

Photographs by Mehdi Vosoughnia have appeared in many magazines. His works were included in Iranian Photography Now by Rose Issa (Hatje Cantz, 2009). Nazar and Bon Gah Publishing House in Tehran brought out his Anzali and Pamenar collections in 2014 and 2016 respectively. He has been a jury member for various photography festivals and conducted over 40 workshops on documentary photography since 2004 in Iran.

Mehdi Vosoughnia, Grand Hotel (2009)

Grand Hotel (2009)

“Even in the possibility of being, in this place that at one time was one of the most luxurious hotels in Iran, I face desolate and soulless rooms.
Room number 16…room number 8…room number…
Anywhere in this abandoned hotel I catch sight of people who are impassive and archaic like the color of the walls.
The eyes search along with me and take me on the quest for the possibility of being.
The story that lingers on as long as you are!”

Mehdi Vosoughnia


Represented by AG Gallery (Tehran)

Ghazaleh Rezaei is a photographer born, raised and based in Tehran, Iran. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography at the University of Tehran, and Master of Arts in Photography there as well. Currently she is a PhD candidate in Art Studies at the same university’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Her research is focused on the aesthetic of Qajar art during the reign (1848-1896) of Naser al-Din Shah.

Ghazaleh Rezaei, Light Upon Light (2016-2018) – courtesy of the artist and the AG Gallery, Tehran

Light Upon Light (2016-2018)

“A light shines, it shatters and beholds an image over a delicate surface within my eyes and then flees. Sometimes this light shines and shatters, but remains; it scratches my photographs. The visible light conceals the patterns and faces and rests upon our dark house. The more it shines, the darker the house becomes; darker-brighter. With this light I see and become blind.”

Ghazaleh Rezaei


Rana Javadi, born in 1953, works and lives in Tehran. A self-taught photographer, she went to London in 1975 to study English and on her return to Iran in 1977 took up documentary photography. She recorded the events of the revolution breaking out in 1978, and those photos have been exhibited and published widely. She has worked as the Director of Photo and Pictorial Studies at the Cultural Research Bureau since 1989, and was a member of the founding group and board of trustees as well as serving as director of Akskhane Shahr; the first museum of photography established in Tehran, in 1997. She is also the editor of Aksnameh, a quarterly journal of photography founded in 1998.

Since 1979 her work has been displayed at many individual and collective exhibitions nationally and internationally, noteworthy among which are Regards Persans, Paris; Women in the Orient – Women in the Occident, Bonn Women’s Museum, Germany; Regards sur les femmes d’Iran, European Parliament and Town Hall, Brussels; Iranian Pulse at Oi Futuro, Rio de Janeiro; 165 years of Iranian Photography, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris; Modern Iran, Asia Society, New York; Unedited History, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris and MAXXI – National Museum of 21st Century Art, Rome; and Self: Portraits of Artists in Their Absence, National Academy Museum & School, New York. She has also participated in international festivals and art fairs such as D-Foto San Sebastian, Spain, and Paris Photo, France. Her work can additionally be found in museums and in private collections.

Rana Javadi, When You Were Dying (2008) – by courtesy of the artist and the Silk Road Gallery, Tehran

When You Were Dying (2008)

“In this series I’ve used old studio photographs by two renowned Iranian photographers, Chehrenegar of Shiraz and Ajamian of Tehran. These images speak of time, of a time when life was more peaceful and human. I sought to lend these photogaphs a new life. The pictures were taken in the courtyard of an old photo studio, Chehrenegar’s – now gone – in daylight, because at that time, artificial light did not exist. These photographs consist of three layers: the first is the original image, the second, fabric or dried flowers, and the third, the reflection of the environment in a mirror, thus showing the present instant dying again. This work is a tribute to these two famous and prized photographers from Iranian studios.”

Rana Javadi


Bahman Jalali (1944-2010) originally studied economics at Melli University in Tehran. After becoming a photographer for Tamasha magazine in 1972 he continued to practice photography alongside teaching in various Iranian universities for more than 30 years, and through his position as one of the curators of Iran’s first museums of photography raised the status of the discipline as an art form in the country. Jalali’s exemplary work was little known outside the borders of Iran: it was not until 2007, when a retrospective of his work was curated by Catherine David at the Antoni Tàpies Foundation in Barcelona, and together with an accompanying book made available the extraordinary breadth of Jalali’s work and its discussion of the artistic, historical, political and social issues of his country. Camera Austria mounted this exhibition in 2009 and had the honor of introducing Bahman Jalali in Germany. He was awarded the SPECTRUM International Prize for Photography of the Foundation of Lower Saxony in 2011; a new exhibition was mounted and a book published. Jalali was a member of the editorial board of the influential photography quarterly Aksnameh. He is probably best known for his documentary photographs, like those of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988.

Between 2000 and 2008 he produced the series Image of Imagination, which incorporate old Qajar photographs, combined with Iranian calligraphy. As Jalali explained, “I have been exposed to many images by little-known photographers around the country. Those that I could keep, I have held as mementos, and others have left their marks on my imagination.” He had more than six photo books published in Farsi, English, German and Spanish. His work is also present in many museums and private collections.

Bahman Jalali, Image of Imagination (2000-2008) – courtesy of Rana Javadi

Image of Imagination (2000-2008)

Between 2000 and 2008 he produced the series Image of Imagination, which incorporate old Qajar photographs, combined with Iranian calligraphy. As Jalali explained, “I have been exposed to many images by little-known photographers around the country. Those that I could keep, I have held as mementos, and others have left their marks on my imagination.” He had more than six photo books published in Farsi, English, German and Spanish. His work is also present in many museums and private collections.