Q&A with Mehdi Moghimnejad, the curator of “By Iranian Contemporary Photographers”

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The current virtual exhibition “By the Iranian Contemporary Photographers” is a curatorial work of Dr. Mehdi Moghimnejad, the renowned photographer and faculty of Art University of Tehran, Iran.  Born in 1976 in Babol, Mehdi has held 4 solo exhibitions in 2001,2010,2012, and 2013 and has participated in 50 national and international group exhibitions since 1997.

The virtual exhibit gave us the opportunity to have a brief Q&A with him which follows:

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Tell us a little about the current state of photography in Iran.

If you look at the history of photography in Iran, it goes back to more than 170 years ago, which makes it in a sense almost as old as photography in Europe or the U.S.. However, it is very difficult to come across some form of comparative history between Iranian photography and the equivalent version in the western world.

Iranian photography in the last century has not benefited as much from the contributions of different entities which shape an Art World, whether it is galleries, museums, educational centers or independent publications and media outlets.

Mehdi Moghimnejad, curator of "On Contemporary Iranian Photography"

Mehdi Moghimnejad, curator of “By Contemporary Iranian Photography”

What are the challenges which you think have contributed to this issue?

Iran, as a country, has always been exposed to different political and social events such as revolutions, changes in the political systems and wars. This, in a way, poses a challenge and changes the natural course of growth for photography.

However, on the positive side, documentary photography as a means to show the reflections of political and social changes has blossomed. This in effect has also influenced photo art and many serious fine art works have also been created and shown around the world.

How about “By Iranian Contemporary Photographers”. Why this show and why now?

I felt there was a necessity to do this project: In the last few decades, we have had a diverse set of photography experiences in Iran in contemporary photography, but no one ever put all these works side by side for viewers and critics to evaluate. If we put the auction houses and Expos aside, there has never been a venue for such an event.

My goal was in a way based on a research theme to put together the works of Iranian photographers who have influenced the direction of contemporary photography in Iran and provide a platform for debate on the whole artistic space. And in order to achieve this goal, the idea came up to ask the artists themselves to provide 1-2 signature work which summarizes their style and contribution for this show. As a result, we focused our attention on picking the right photographers rather than the photos.

How was the reception on the show?

In the last 10 years, this was probably the photography exhibition with the highest buzz in the media. The show also coincided with the new elected president’s work and we had a great panel and debate session with Hamid Severi, the former head of research for Tehran Museum of Modern Art, and Dr. Hamid Reza Keshmirshekan, the Internationally well-known scholar on contemporary art.

Any final words?

What you see in this exhibition is all that is to Iranian Contemporary Photography, but I believe some of the most important works of the recent decades have been included. I decided to include the works of the artists based on their role and contributions to the current art movements in Iran even though this might have occasionally been against my personal taste. Therefore, I consider the current collection to be an objective assessment or snapshot of contemporary photography in Iran.

Also, we decided to shape an event which stimulates critics’ minds rather than assemble a collection which looks “beautiful”. I think in the near future, we need more venues such as this for our critics and scholars.

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