New Internationalist

Bahman Jalali

Issue 345

Bulletholes in Iran, photographed by Bahman Jalail.

On the 22 September 1980 Iraqi forces attacked Iran’s key airports and a war broke out that nobody believed could last for eight years and cost so many lives on both sides. At that time, I had no experience as a war photographer but I felt it was my duty to record it on film. I struggled to control my feelings so that I would be able to record the reality correctly. The war was headline news and the world’s press was looking for pictures. For six months I worked for an agency based in Paris. But the pictures they wanted didn’t satisfy me. I decided to photograph for myself, not for the market. I wanted to capture pictures that defined the war for the future. Not photo-journalistic images, but rather a kind of documentary photography. I went to the southern fronts of Iran more than 40 times — to the cities of Khoramshahr and Abadan. Each time I tried to find a reason for all the killing and destruction. I stepped into houses abandoned by their owners because of the war. Even their pictures hanging on the walls, the bullets had not spared. I felt their presence and their fear. Each ruined house meant lost lives and dreams; whatever they had wished for had been destroyed by a ruthless invasion.

All blown away in the wind.

Bahman Jalali is an Iranian photographer who has been teaching in different universities in his country for 20 years. He is curator of Iran’s first museum of photography and a member of the editorial board for Aksnameh, a bi-monthly journal of photography.

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