Smartphone Social (Media) Documentary Photographer Shows World Life in Iran

“What you will see is different from your imagination’s version of the people of Iran and Iran itself.”
- Jalal Shams Azaran

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Jalal Shams Azaran, born in Tabriz, Iran, is a self-taught social documentary photographer. He is currently lives and works in his hometown, photographing its people and telling its story.

Jalal interacts with the international world via his Instagram account, where his black and white images of Iranian life have been well received.

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Jalal had a chat with THE PLUS.

THE PLUS: What got you into social documentary photography?
Jalal Shams Azaran:
Untold stories and hidden layers of my own life, and the people of my homeland, led me to social documentary photography. 

TP: Tell us about your hometown, Tabriz.
JSA:
Tabriz is one of the most important and biggest cities of Iran and famous for its carpet. It is the capital of Azerbaijan and Turks in Iran. The population is about 3 million. Tabriz Bazaar is the biggest roofed bazaar in the world.
 
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TP: What’s the purpose behind your social documentary project in Tabriz? 
JSA:
The life challenges of the people of Tabriz are the main feature of my documentary photography projects.

TP: Why do you use a smartphone?
JSA:
Because of the easy control, ability to share images quickly, and photography restrictions in various places where government securities do not allow it, has led me to use my smartphone for photography. 

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TP: Why do you prefer black and white?
JSA:
I feel that black and white photography shows my inner-self and the people around me better – I can feel both characters more. 

TP: What initially prompted you to begin using Instagram?
JSA:
Being able to share the photos and connect with other photographers. Also being able to observe my audience’s reactions and deal with a public subjectivity in a visual world.

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TP: Did you go travelling this summer?
JSA:
This summer I travelled to Sistan and Baluchestan in the southeast of Iran. It was a continuation of the photography project – showing life following the drought and the 120-day winds.  

TP: What do you tell people who have never been before about Iran?
JSA:
I think that, in spite the tensions between the government and people, natural and political crisis in previous decades, the importance and value of seeing has increased. Having a multinational country with different cultures, diverse nature, old history, warm-blooded and kind people, doubles this importance. What you will see is different from your imagination’s version of the people of Iran and Iran itself. 

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