By an eye witness- Azadeh Akhlaghi

Amidst abstract minds, vibrant clothes and candor…There were many posthumous/living artists at the Indian Art fair which marks the celebration of the new year with expressions from all over the world in the heart of the Capital of India.

With art, one can expect bold, timid, obtuse or simple but a few found Azadeh Akhlaghi. Her name meaning “Freedom” in persian, the Iranian artist might be known to a few, will never be forgotten.

Thanks to  Tariq  Allana of Art heritage gallery, based in New Delhi…I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the photographer who stages shoots and has given life to many who lost their lives battling communism, propaganda and basic rights. It took her 3 years starting in 2009 to stage this play. In total 17 shots depicting significant death of revered men of Iran. What irked her among many things were the elections protest in Tehran in 2009 followed by the Arab spring.

The Iranian transition in the backdrop, the history of the country has been captured to look like  a short play, a purgatory between the calm and the calamity.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 5.08.59 pm

Feb, 1940. Communist Intellectual Taghi Arani dies in prison. His face unrecognizable.


Stitched Panorama
Stitched Panorama

Student Day- Dec 7,1953; Tehran University. Students were killed by the police after a protest.


Mirzadeh Eshgi 3 July,1924-Tehran


Mohammad Mosadegh. 5 March 1967, Ahmad-Abad,Iran


Hamid Ashraf, 29 June 1976- South Mehrabad House, Tehran.


Mehdi Bakeri, 14 Feb 1985- Majnoon Island,Iraq.


Sociologist Ali Shariati dies mysteriously in Southampton, UK. June 19, 1977 after being released from solitary confinement.


Apr 26,1974. Student activist Marzieh Ahmadi Oskuie was shot by the secret police.


1. How has being a photographer who takes political risks settled in Iran? How has it changed for you?

A. Any creative endeavor in Iran inevitably faces one barrier or another. I have tried to transform the obstacles into a productive force for my project. Finding my way through these obstacles, not only due to the historical context of my last two projects, but primarily as a female artist in an over-determined masculine art scene has been a constant part of my job. Eventually, I have learned to preclude the de facto rules and regulations as a kind of transcendental conditions of creative endeavor. But this is half of the picture. The other half is unpredictable consequences awaiting anyone who attempts to explore the dark side of our common past. How it will all end? I really couldn’t say.

2. What’s the ideology/story behind the theme?

As a friend once described, Iran stepped into the twentieth century with cows and plows and stepped out of the century with the highest car accident rate and a nuclear dispute. Our contemporary history is a series of leaps and ruptures. The outcome is a huge pile of contradictory stories and details, lacking a coherent texture, and best expressed in our collective forgetfulness. We are thus trapped in a viscous circle of reenacting the same experiences over and over. In my current project I am challenging this eternal recurrence, by framing it in 3 circles, each containing five collective trauma or experiences. 

3. What inspires you? Any person you idolise?

I love the works of Edward Hopper and I studied them carefully. As for photography, I have been heavily influenced by Crewdson and particularly Jeff Wall. But the narrative techniques are borrowed from elsewhere, I have them from my old engagement with cinema and literature. I admire the cinema of Fellini and Antonioni, and also many masterpieces of Russian and French writers of nineteenth century. I believe they have reached a height in story-telling and concoction of grand narratives that is still beyond abilities of visual artists. For instance, I am very interested in populated settings: how to bring a relatively large number of characters into one shot, how to marshal them to reach a coherent picture. I think the best source to refer to is Russian literature, particularly their crowded scene. Just remember the famous party in Dostoyevsky’s The Devils or the notoriously complicated dance party in War and Peace. Through a careful reading of them one learns extremely precious lessons as to how to manage a similar situation in photography.

4. Any interesting incidents that occurred while shooting?

Frankly, right now I am in the middle of shooting, and couldn’t possibly answer that question. It takes time for the interesting incidents to crystallize from the whole experience.

5. How has your experience with the Indian art fair been?

Let me answer this question later as well.

6. Any advice to new photographers/artists?

Advice? I cannot sympathize with the approach of “advising the youth” the true artists of the younger generation would disregard any such advice. But for my personal experience, I have found history as the only content that any artist who wants to transform a social content into a style can rely on.

In solidarity

Azadeh Akhlaghi


I thank you deeply for taking out time and for giving us a peek into history. As time doesn’t stop… a memory or in this case reenacting and staging this series has given us  more than ones imagination. I hope this bridges the gap of being aware and the Known.

This work can be found at or you can visit the gallery- Triveni Kala Sangam,205, Tansen Marg, New Delhi 110001,India.

From an Eye Witness at The Indian Art Fair.

Zina Singh for Terrible Two’s


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