ON POETRY AND WHAT REMAINS
In some parts of the old city of Tehran, it is still possible to see the past shining through an otherwise modern city. Walking through these areas feels like peering into distant memories, with an altogether uncertain future. With this in mind, I ask myself: what remains? As I discuss poetry with the people I meet, I recognise the eternal power of well known Iranian poets – but what about everyday communities, and their unsung quotidian poetry?
I encounter a military veteran with a peaceful love for all creatures, who tells me of the cursed nature of war. I speak with an old woman, who regrets the fact she never married. I watch while a widow laughs with her son, as she recalls how she first fell in love with her husband. I listen to a timber merchant, who contemplates how we could be all but forgotten after just two or three generations. He does not lament; this is the nature of our existence, he says.
All the while, I photograph with the old camera of my grandfather, who passed away before my first birthday. Like the houses that have yet to be replaced, the camera seems to have resisted change over time. Through framing visual poems with it, I connect not only to the people and places I encounter, but also to a past I did not know. The gradual feel of the analogue process allows me to choose my motives carefully - but now I leave it to the viewer, what will remain.
• TEHRAN, IRAN - AUTUMN 2019
Davoud Chenari next to the shop where he sells wood. Once his house stood here but it had to be destroyed due to its age. "I know my grandfather, but my son doesn't know him. After two or three generations we will be forgotten." he says and adds: "Nothing to be sad about it, that is the nature."
Mr. Ghanbari takes care of the Tughul tower, a 12th century monument which can measure time by sunlight and shadow. He often jokes with tourists when he explains the tower's function and pictures them with their phones in front of it.
The scars in his face, caused by chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war, are still visible - yet he doesn't like to talk about war but says instead: "I love nature and all creatures are good.", and he saves a flying cockroach that was entangled and lets it free.
Klaris Piryani works in an old café in central Tehran. If something remains it would be friendship, she says. With her colleague Adrine she remembers an Armenian song, their voices filling the café softly. Both belong to the Armenian and Christian minority in Iran.
"After we die, the soul leaves the body and only the skeleton remains."
The elderly Jewish Lady Rahel lives within one of the oldest synagogues in southern Tehran since 40 years. She regrets not to have married, "I was stubborn", she explains.
"Art will always remain - in everything there is art, even in that chair we sit on." Mr. Vahan used to work as a car mechanic. But since he retired, he has been taking care of an old Armenian church as a clerk.
Shahrzad Tahami in the photography store of her late husband that can be seen behind her. She laughs with her son when she tells the story how she came to the photography studio every day, where at that time her future husband worked. She just wanted to see him, the photos she brought were good excuses. After some weeks he asked her: "Do you love me?" And she answered: "Yes. How do you know that?"
Fatemeh feels peace and calmness when she paints. She dreams about beeing an artist but she wonders if it would be possible to earn a living from it.
"I'm afraid of the future because I don't know what will happen."
Yousef Ashgarzadeh owns a small shop where he sells home made Azeri-Iranian food. He belongs to the Turkish minority in Iran. Proudly he speaks about his children, two of his daughters are doctors, one in Iran, one in England, where he wishes to go for a visit. The old man explains a poem of Sa'adi in his own words: "Humans should do good and serve the people."
Mohsen guards a sports ground that can rarely be seen in the old area in the south of Tehran. he works in shifts during day- and nighttime.
His daughter died when she was two years old and he will never forget the good time with her. But the deep sadness and the feeling of having lost her life also remain.