Iran: Visual Poetries
in Gaspé



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 4: Dissonances

Artist: Yahya Dehghanpour

Poetry as thought-image

“In this fourth segment of the exhibition Iran: Visual Poetries, photographer Yahya Dehghanpour, who is, with Bahman Jalali, one of the most significant figures in contemporary Iranian photography, here presents two miscellaneous series, each of them characterized by a very clear intention. On the one hand, in the series Ode to Spring, carried out between 1981 and 1984, when the Iran-Iraq conflict was still under way, Dehghanpour explores the neighborhoods in northern Tehran, backed by the mountain, and captures details of daily life that he reproduces in harmonious compositions, in an almost ‘naïve’ style, and in lively colors. Images open to the future make references to the Nowruz holiday, the Iranian new year celebrated on March 21. In contraposition to these linear images, in a divide both visual and temporal, are distorted images that forty years afterwards reunite at the same level of distortion the two cities where he divides his life: Tehran and New York. The title The Third Apple places his pictures under the polysemous symbol of the apple, evocation of the expulsion from Paradise, of Newtonian physics, but also a mark of the contemporary technological consumerism embodied by the iPhone that the photographer incidentally himself used to take these pictures. In constructing a dialectical interplay that obliges us to take multiple round trips between the two series in order to understand the relationship between them, these images present a clear-sighted reflection on the contemporary, and display their po-ethic targeting, which consists in questioning the living arrangements of the contemporary world.”

Claudia Polledri, curator



Yahya Dehganpour, born in 1941, has been photographing for over 60 years. He has selected two series for Iran: Visual Poetries depicting two extremes: celebration and disorientation.

Yahya Dehganpour, Ode to Spring (1992) – by courtesy of the artist

Ode to Spring (1981-1984)

Ode to Spring (1981-1984) is the outcome of his meanderings with his toddler sons and university students in the mountain valleys north of Tehran, escaping the noise, pollution and congestion of the capital city. With flowing streams, these rocky ravines are strewn with riverside cafés, where each day feels like the first day of spring – the Iranian new year: “Noruz” (new day) – the one celebration that has withstood the onslaught of foreign invasions and political upheavals, dating back to early signs of human civilization on the Iranian plateau.

Forty years later, he is between Tehran and New York City, where today his sons and grandchildren live. The Third Apple (2018) bears images of both cities. Exercising free well and falling from grace, Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden and banished onto Earth, the day they chose to pluck an apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Classical Newtonian physics owes its existence to an apple that fell to earth at the hand of gravity. Steve Jobs entered our lives by taking a byte out of Newton’s apple. Depicting a pulverizing urban edifice, Yahya takes a bite out of 21st century progress and civilization, capturing a humanity that faces a deluge of uncertainties and distorted realities within the panoramic frame of his jarring iPhone.