An image of Iran that many people around the world are familiar with is the view of Iran as a troubled nation plagued by an oppressive government, ultra-conservative ideologies, brutal executions, public demonstrations, rumors of nuclear weaponry, and women who are forced to wear head coverings such as chador. Iranian photographer Hossein Fatemi, however, offers a glimpse of an entirely different side to Iran than the image usually broadcasted by domestic and foreign media. In his photo series An Iranian Journey, many of the photographs reveal an Iran that most people never see, presenting an eye-opening look at the amazing diversity and contrasts that exist in the country.
While the Iranian government wishes to promote Iran as a religious and pious nation, Fatemi says that there is a “semi-hidden part of the country” behind closed doors. Pushing the boundaries of what is normally acceptable in public, people are photographed smoking, drinking, playing music, baring skin, and living life to the fullest. “It’s human instinct,” says Fatemi, “to test the limits of what a society permits.”
Although the photos depict people who appear totally at ease, it was extremely challenging for Fatemi to capture some of these images. It took the photographer months to gain access to some of these facilities, like the female-only gym. Some subjects insisted that their faces not be shown for fear of being identified. Others canceled appointments for fear of losing their jobs. In spite of the difficulties, the results of Fatemi’s hard work are stunning, creating a beautiful and multifaceted portrait of Iran and many of the people who live there.
A salon only for women, where men are not allowed to enter or work.
A private rock concert. Rock music is forbidden, so shows like these are usually kept hidden.
Two women drink and dance at a party.
A gym only for women.
Local artist Eylya enjoys a drink and a smoke in his room.
A man and his dog relax at home. Dogs, which are considered unclean and so are not often kept as pets, are usually kept indoors by their owners.
Playing music in a park.
Two women play pool at a billiards hall, where only men are supposed to be allowed.
A local rock band practices in secret.
Two women uncover their heads, light up a cigarette, and relax on their balcony.
A customer tries on a bra while other women discuss undergarments in a store.
Free-form exercise and parkour outside.
Two people read the Koran in a cemetery.