Bahman Jalali

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.

mag cover This article is from the May 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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