Author: Ingo Taubhorn
Maziar Moradi (photographs)
© 2010 Kehrer Verlag, ISBN 978-3-86828-118-7
Who is Uncle Hamid?
Eight brief commentaries on Maziar Moradi’s photographs
This is the story of Uncle Hamid: in the foreground of the image stands a slightly stooped man in jeans and blue shirt as a dark silhouette in a clinical, but by no means perfect garage, almost like a frozen hyperreal figure by Duane Hanson, in the middle of a puddle. His gaze is directed at a void created out of concrete, his own shadow and artificial light cast by three fluouresecent tubes onto a bare, whitewashed wall. In his left hand he holds an indicator of passing time, a nearly burnt-out cigarette without a filter.
When, in 1997, American photographer Tina Barney published a book featuring portraits of her bourgeois family and friends, she aptly preceded the reflections on her images with a journal-like text which placed the “photographs of family, custom and form” biographically and drew a clear profile of the family clique: photography as visual and genealogical classification of a social class and a way of life. German-Iranian photographer Maziar Moradi names Tina Barney alongside Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Gregory Crewdson as one of the most important influences on his photographic oeuvre but, however, refuses a clear decryption of his visual world by dispensing with titles and explanatory anecdotes published right next to the images. “Images lose their mystery once they’re explained,” says Moradi. His anecdotes, which are also published in the book in unpredictable places not linked directly with the images, run thus: “Some of my family members from Kermanshah had dug small protective trenches around their houses so that they could get to safety quickly during bombing raids. During one of these bombing raids, everybody rushed out of the house and hid in the trench. One of my uncles got there too late and found all the trenches occupied. In his panic he pulled his best friend out of the trench and crawled into it himself.” Is that the story of Uncle Hamid?
A man stands barefoot and balletically on an overturned clay flowerpot. His toes balance his weight in the middle of his body, enabling him to sustain his acrobatic exercise with regal poise. The sun is at its zenith, his short shadow meets a white windowless house wall behind him, horizontal and vertical shadows divide the background of the shot. A branchless tree trunk chops a small, imperceptible piece off the right-hand half of the image. A withered, gnarled, leafless bough vertically divides almost half of the image.
Anecdotes told by Maziar Moradi:
My aunt told me that, during the bombardments, they would often run into the nearby park in order to seek cover. They would hide under the trees, as absurd as that was. When the attacks were lengthy, they sometimes had to spend the night out of doors. As it would get fairly cold after a while, they would put on their older relatives’ jackets and play catch to kill time.
Ezat was about 13 years old when his city was bombed by Iraq.
One night, when Ezat was already asleep, his mother, fearing further bombardments, decided to drive him to his uncle’s. This uncle had an enormous orchard outside the city close to the mountains of Bisotun. Ezat was oblivious to the move that night. As many family members were already accommodated at his uncle’s, Ezat had to spend the night out of doors.
The next morning, as the birds were starting to sing and while the sky was still obscured by a light morning mist, Ezat opened his eyes and was amazed to find that he was not lying in his bed as usual, but in a place full of fruit trees and birds. For a moment there he was convinced that he had been killed in a night raid and was now in paradise.
Ezat took a quick look around and saw more family members lying next to him. At that point he realized that they had fled overnight.
When Maziar Moradi asked me to write a text to accompany his first published book, I was confused by his request to deal less with Iran’s political evolution since the overthrow of Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979. For behind the work’s laconic title, “1979,” is concealed an unbelievable tragedy of enormous proportions, the effects of which can still be felt today, not only by the Moradi family. Destinies closely tied with the political turmoil and the days of conflict between the seizure of power by Ayatollah Khomeini (1979) and the Iran-Iraq war (1980 – 1988) determine the choice of locations, of props and the protagonists’ poses. Nevertheless, it is not the photographer’s concern to make a political statement: “Iranian politics was never the focus of my work, but always people and their destinies.” This humanist claim lends his images a form of timeless universal validity, for the story of Uncle Hamid is our story, too.