Pictures of You: Images from Iran

Tom Loughlin is a Colorado-based artist whose portraits of Iranians in Iran are being shown in a groundbreaking and thought-provoking installation across the United States. We asked Tom how his show, Pictures of You: Images from Iran, came about, how people have reacted so far, and where the show is going.

Pars Arts: In your artist’s statement, you write that the idea for Pictures of You started when you were taking photos in Isfahan. What drew you to Iran in the first place?

Tom Loughlin: The first time I heard of Iran was in 1979, when I was in middle school in St. Louis, Missouri. I clearly remember an intense mood of anger and disbelief about the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Every night on the network news, we would be reminded of how many days the “hostage crisis” had gone on. I don’t recall hearing anything about the history of U.S./Iranian relations, and the only explanation offered for the actions of the Iranian hostage takers was that they were religious fundamentalists who hated the United States.

The whole thing made quite an impression on me, and as I grew older, I couldn’t stop wondering what had motivated those Iranian university students. In high school, I was lucky enough to be able to take a course on Middle Eastern history, which helped me understand the roots of the Iranian revolution, and put Iranian concerns about U.S. intervention in a new light.

Although my history class helped to explain what had happened in Iran in 1979, it raised important questions for me about the United States. For example, our government’s participation in the 1953 coup was not part of our national conversation about Iran in 1979. What does that say about our own representative democracy? How can citizens engage in informed debate about foreign policy decisions if they lack the most basic historical facts?

Western demonization of Iran is not a new phenomenon – it dates back to the time of Herodotus. What’s fascinating to me is that we in the United States can’t seem to move away from that narrative. Of course there are many, many Americans who understand the world in a more nuanced way, but the puzzle for me is why with all of our prosperity, freedom, and commitment to education, so many of us have a simplistic, polarized view of U.S./Iranian relations.

PA: How did you find your subjects for the portraits in the installation? How did they react to the project?

TL: The show has evolved fairly rapidly over the past two years. When I first traveled to Iran in October 2006, the project didn’t even really exist. My main interest was in seeing Iran with my own eyes, and finding out what life was like for people in Iran. Not surprisingly, I was welcomed with Iran’s legendary hospitality, and I quickly came to believe that the United States would be a better place if all Americans could see the humanity of the citizens of Iran.

On my most recent trip to Iran, I was able to show renderings of what the completed installation would look like, and talk in some detail about where the work would be shown. Everyone I spoke to about the project seemed to understand it right away – both my desire to show Iran to Americans, and the variety of responses that we were likely to get in the United States. I found people to be very supportive, and quite interested to see how Americans would respond.

PA: The photos in Pictures of You are printed on translucent silk. You’ve written that the silk is intended to allow viewers to see each other as well as the photographs, and to remind them that “something beautiful is in jeopardy.” How have viewers reacted to Pictures of You?

TL: There have been a wide variety of reactions. In fact, the one commonality seems to be that no one is indifferent. Everyone seems to have a powerful response to the show.

So far, the overwhelming majority of responses have been positive. Viewers thank us for putting a human face on Iran, and many of them have powerful emotional responses. It’s quite amazing for me as an artist to see people emerging from the installation in tears, or emptying their pockets into our donation boxes because they want to see the show travel to other venues.

We have had a variety of negative responses as well. At our installation in Denver, we were picketed by a Christian group that wanted to express the view that Muslims were going to hell. Interestingly, they all agreed that the subjects of my photographs looked like very nice people. At the same installation, we had a visitor tell us that he wanted to go and get dynamite and destroy the artwork. One of our staff members engaged him in conversation about the show, and within ten minutes he had changed his mind completely! He told us he supported what we were doing, and thanked us for being there.

A lot of the negative responses have appeared on weblogs and news sites. Several bloggers came through our installation without sharing their opinions with anyone staffing the show, but went home and posted their negative feelings on their websites. In some cases, those posts drew hundreds and hundreds of comments within a day of being posted. There was also extensive commentary in response to mainstream online newspaper coverage of the show – frequently quite negative.

It’s fascinating to see how people make use of the new media that are available today. In this case, online forums have allowed debate about the show (and about U.S./Iranian relations) among people from very different backgrounds and points of view. Of course, we have also seen person-to-person debate and dialog happening at the show, too.

PA: Your website notes Pictures of You will be traveling throughout the U.S. in 2008/2009. Where have you shown thus far, and where are you headed?

TL: So far we have shown the work in my hometown of Crested Butte, Colorado, and at the Democratic National Convention. My wife and I agreed that we would build the installation and show it at those venues so that people could see what it looked like and how it worked. Let’s face it: this is a project that’s difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t seen it. Now that we’ve shown it a couple of times, and people have begun to talk about their experience of seeing the show, we think it will be easier for people to understand what we’re trying to do.

We are currently in a period of fundraising. It’s not a cheap show to put on, and we are absolutely committed to the idea that it has to be free for people to come see it. We want as many people as possible to have a chance to walk through the installation, so we feel the need to travel with it and to keep admission free.

We’ve put together a list of venues – we’ve narrowed it down to fifteen places we would like to travel to – beginning in Los Angeles this spring. But it’s all contingent on financial support. We’d be interested in hearing from your readers about where they would like to see the show, and whether they would be interested in supporting our fundraising efforts. [Ed. note: see the end of this post for tentative cities/dates.]

PA: Were you able to show this installation at the DNC and RNC? How did viewers at each convention react?

TL: In some ways, the most interesting responses we got were from the Democratic and Republican National Committees that put on the conventions. The DNC had a designated “free speech” zone in a beautiful city park right in the heart of downtown Denver. The DNC helped groups who wanted to put on a display in the park, or march from the park to the auditorium where the convention was being held. We had a rather large, unorthodox installation to put on, but with help from the DNC and officials working for the City of Denver, we were able to pull it off.

We had a different experience with the folks planning the Republican National Convention. We applied to put on our installation in their designated free speech zone – a large, grassy island across the Mississippi River from the convention site. After we submitted our application, we were told that our installation couldn’t go in the free speech zone, so we had to start over again. After months of going back and forth, we were offered a spot just a few weeks before the convention. The proposed location was under a bridge next to a highway, and had no parking lot and no way for pedestrians to cross the highway. We elected not to put on the installation there.

Draw your own conclusions about what those distinctions might mean.

PA: What are your future plans for Pictures of You?

TL: We want to travel broadly with the installation, and we want to record how Americans respond to it. I think the variety and the intensity of viewers’ responses to the show present an opportunity to document where we are as a nation right now. We’ve made a short film about the first two installations, and it’s been a great way to illustrate how people respond to the artwork [Ed. note: see top of this post for the video]. We would like to do a longer film about the reception we get as we travel across the United States. But, as I mentioned, this is all dependent on financial support.


Pictures of You will have tentative showings in the following cities in 2009:

  • Los Angeles, early April
  • Las Vegas, mid April
  • St. George, UT, mid/late April
  • Phoenix, early May
  • Santa Fe, early/mid May
  • Colorado Springs, mid/late May
  • St. Louis, 4th of July
  • Cheyenne, WY, mid July
  • Chicago, mid August
  • Minnesota State Fair, late August
  • Kansas State Fair, mid September
  • Texas State Fair, late September/early October
  • Oxford, MS, mid October
  • Oklahoma City, mid/late October
  • Louisiana State Fair, late October/early November
  • East Coast trip starting Spring 2010

Interviews with Young Iranians: Azad, Life Goes on in Tehran Photo Blogger

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The photo blog Life Goes on in Tehran highlights ordinary Tehran life in an effort to dispel Western myths and poorly slanted media coverage about Iran. It has a very insider quality that makes you feel like you’re on your own Tehran visit. The man behind the site, 28-year-old Azad (last name withheld for reasons outlined below), documents his life there on a camera phone and updates the site with new pictures and captions each month. We sent him some questions by email, and here’s what he had to say.

Pars Arts: You are anonymous on your photo blog; without revealing your name/identity, can you tell us more about who you are and where you grew up? Can you also talk about why you’ve decided to be anonymous?
Azad: I was born and raised in Tehran and then moved to the Los Angeles area when I was 14. Following the awkward assimilation period of high school, I attended USC where I got my BA in Cinema-Television in 2001. After graduation I paid my bills doing web design, while affording myself the opportunity to make short films and travel for months at a time.

There are multiple reasons for wanting to stay anonymous. For one, I don’t want the website to become about me. I like it as it is; Tehran from the point of view of a former Los Angeles resident, regardless of who that resident is. Plus, I often point my camera at unsuspecting friends and family members at private gatherings and parties. In order to hide their identities, I feel like I should first hide mine. A more dramatic reason would be staying away from either Evin prison in Tehran or a secret CIA prison somewhere in Eastern Europe! But really, if someone tried hard enough, they could find out who is behind the photo blog. So what it comes down to is me trying to stay out of Tehran’s spotlight.

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PA: Why did you move (back?) to Iran?
Azad: Ironically, I moved (back) to Tehran to jump-start my film career. Most people go to Los Angeles to do this; I left. I think the Hollywood film scene is for when you’ve already made it. You don’t fare well in Hollywood as a struggling filmmaker. In order to meet my personal goal of making my first feature-length film before I’m 30, I weighed my options and felt that I would be more likely to do so if I were to move to Tehran. Plus, if I get started here, I will always have a base to come back to.

PA: What’s been the biggest surprise about living in Tehran for you? What’s been the most difficult part of adjusting to life in Iran? What do you miss most about your LA life?
Azad: I tested the waters with a couple of short-term stays before finally making the big move. So I had an idea about what life in Tehran might have in store for me and I can’t say there were any surprises. If anything, the fact that it’s similar to living in LA, for the most part, is a surprise in and of itself. It’s more about moving from one big city to another. I have, however, narrowed down the differences to three main things, the absence of which makes life in Tehran a tad more difficult: respect, trust and freedom to choose. Most everything that might annoy someone who has lived abroad fits in one or all of the above categories.

This is not to say that Iranians are disrespectful or untrustworthy. On the contrary, in personal interactions and relationships with people you know they’re perhaps more respectful, kind and trustworthy [than people in Los Angeles]. But when it comes to dealing with “them,” things get shady. And the place where this is most apparent is the relationship the government has with its people. All three are missing in that particular marriage. Needless to say, the three things I miss most about LA are: respect, trust and freedom to choose. I won’t get into specifics, but if I have done my job right, you’ll see examples of this on my site.

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PA: I’ve frequently wondered whether being Iranian-American (or any other sort of Iranian hyphenate) is a barrier or instead lends a certain cachet to those that grew up abroad and then move back to Iran for work/to live. Any first-hand observations/thoughts on this? Is there a sizable community of people who have moved back to Iran?
Azad: It’s definitely not a barrier. For some reason, people here take Iranians coming from the U.S. very seriously. Perhaps too seriously. This is surprising considering the type of junk-TV a handful of Iranians in Los Angeles beam to their living rooms. If my only image of Iranian-Americans were those of the LA pop stars and TV anchors as seen on satellite TV, I would question anyone who associated with anything American. But fortunately most everyone — at least among the middle-class Iranians — has a relative in the U.S. Because of these relatives, lines of communication are always open and the general public is aware of what life in the US can be like. So there’s this thought process of “Oh you lived in the US? Lucky you! Want to run my company? You single?!”

I am sure a medical degree from Harvard deserves the type of respect here as it does anywhere else in the world, but as for my own degree, well, my film degree means nothing to me or to anyone in Hollywood. But here, they introduce me as “So and so, who studied film in the US.” Before I have a chance to discredit my degree, they already take me for some genius that I am not. This I find amusing. Some people use this to their advantage. I’ve run into folks who have taken courses at Santa Monica City College who consider themselves “U.S. educated,” and you’ll be surprised to see how it opens doors for them. This is not to bash on SMC or any other community college, for that matter, but it perfectly demonstrates the type of weight being Iranian-hyphen-anything carries.

I have also decided to keep my U.S. citizenship a secret. What is shadier than being taken more seriously at what you do because of some U.S. education is finding yourself in a relationship with someone who likes you for your passport! Luckily I haven’t experienced this, but I am told to be cautious. It would be really sad to have that be a qualification (but unfortunately some fellow Iranian-Americans do).

PA: Several of your images capture and comment on Iranian media consumption (satellite dishes, newspapers, film, art). Are the art, culture, and media produced in Iran – and the various means of consumption that defy censorship – vastly different from what you thought they would be?
Azad: This is too broad a topic to try and tackle with a general statement on what art/culture/media Iranians produce and consume. I personally never had any expectations or pre-conceived notions of what this may be like in Iran. But because there are many more obstacles and bans on creation and consumption in Iran, people tend to not take for granted what is readily available in the U.S. For example, in the US you can watch any movie your heart desires, have access to any website or go to any play, but you don’t necessarily take advantage of this. Because you take your freedom for granted. When you come to Iran, you start to seek that which the government wants to keep from you. Suddenly watching a banned movie or going to a blocked website becomes a more valuable (and pleasurable) experience. Then in the process you feel more “cultured.”

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PA: A lot of your photos appear to be shot in northern Tehran – a more affluent part of the city. Much of the lifestyle press coverage coming from Tehran seems to be focused on this area also (or it’s very much the opposite, looking at abject poverty), but I think you do a good job pointing out the economic context of your photos in your short captions, which is where a lot of mainstream reportage about Iran fails. I assume you shoot mostly things happening around you, but do you have plans to venture further south in the city and capture a different socioeconomic scene also?
Azad: I am not a reporter and therefore I don’t go out of my way to report on life in Tehran (unfortunately many mainstream Western reporters do the same!). My main goal is show that life in general, my life in particular, goes on in Tehran. So I point the camera at my immediate surroundings, which happens to be that of the more affluent middle-class northern Tehran. There’s no shame in this. Because it is exactly this socioeconomic scene that is under-represented — by both the Iranian media as well as the Western press coverage. One could take away from this the very fact that Tehran is so large a city that you could live your whole life in one neighborhood and never cross paths with other less or more fortunate souls in other neighborhoods. Same is true with any large cities. Many Iranians living in Beverly Hills have never set foot in Compton or South Central LA, even though they’re only a few miles apart. That said, I do have a few photos from South Tehran. One in particular is of an elderly man near Khorasan Square in the south who had lived his whole life there and had never seen Pasdaran or other neighborhoods in the north.

PA: What kind of feedback have you gotten from people that follow LGOIT?
Azad: So far I’ve only received positive feedback. Many Iranians abroad write and tell me that the site brought tears to their eyes. They thank me for finally portraying life in Tehran in such a way that they can proudly share with their non-Iranian friends. I can relate to their sentiments, because I think when you live outside of Iran, the situation is such that it becomes really difficult for you to prove to your non-Iranian friends and family that Iran isn’t all that bad, that there’s more good than evil, more positive than negative, and most importantly that we are not backwards, but similar to them, that we share many of the same values and ideals.

I also get many emails from Americans and Europeans who thank me for showing a side of Iran they had no idea existed. One American visitor even joked about me receiving a Noble Peace prize for my efforts. Because he thought it would be much tougher for the Bush White House to start a war with Iran if the word on my site were to get out and more tax-paying Americans were to see it. And the word is getting out. As of this interview I have had thousands of unique visitors from 97 countries in over 1700 cities. I for one find all this very inspiring and with each new visitor I get more motivated to continue what I’m doing. What started out as a simple site to assure my friends back home that I’m safe in Tehran has gotten a life of its own. Hopefully I will one day look back at the archives of Life Goes On In Tehran and feel that I did my small part in changing world public opinions about Iran and stopping a catastrophic war.

(Photos courtesy of Life Goes on in Tehran)

Iran Election News Sources

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Here are some sources for following the Iranian election results and protests. 

Up-to-the-minute: See Twitter – the trending tag #IranElection is on fire – click that link and you’ll get a firehose of news (and some rumors) from people inside Iran and out. Also follow twitter.com/TehranBureau and twitter.com/Change_for_Iran and twitter.com/mousavi1388. The same sort of rapid, crowd-sourced spread of news is happening with Iranians on Facebook.

Photos: The Mousavi campaign’s Flickr feed, TehranLive.org, the NYT, the LAT.

News: BBC Persian and live BBC Persian TV. Andrew Sullivan’s blog on The Atlantic website, The Daily Dish. And Tehran Bureau is cranking out thoughtful, illuminating pieces even as they post constant updates from inside Iran.

Pars Arts Twitters Irvine: the Iranian-American Writers Association

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The Inauguration of the Association of Iranian-American Writers is happening at UC Irvine tomorrow, in a workshop format that will address issues of representation and etc. It’s hosted by UCI’s Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture and its director, Nasrin Rahimieh, as well as writer and professor Persis Karim and journalist Homa Sarshar. Here’s a press release on Payvand News, and here’s the full day’s schedule. It’s free and open to the public, so please come if you can.

The attendees include people like novelists Porochista Khakpour and Anita Amirrezvani. And I’ll be there to talk about the Internet and blogs and self-publishing and social media, on a panel with Jahanshah Javid of Iranian.com. My talk will probably be mostly focused on the benefits for writers in engaging with their readership online.

I may not have wireless access there, but I will be talking to people, taking pictures, possibly shooting some video, and updating microblog site Twitter constantly throughout the day via my cell phone. You can follow that “coverage” at twitter.com/parsarts.

Noor Film Festival 2008 Photos

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Hey, remember when we said we were going to the Noor Film Festival red carpet thingy? No? Well, we went. And Amy Malek – Pars Arts contributor, anthropology genius, NGO-starter, and fearless press photographer extraordinaire – took some amazing photos that you should definitely not miss. Seriously, it was elbows-out in this press pit and Amy spent a solid couple of hours wedged between some people from Persian satellite TV and a disgruntled yet chatty guy from one of the wire services. We love you, Amy.

Above, she managed to capture the Iranian Paris Hilton (accidentally?) flashing her dog’s nether regions. Persian Paris’s real name is Saye Yabandeh, and she’s an actress, and we think she kinda rocks for bringing her puppy to the LAX Hilton. And her pet’s coloring matches her leopard-print dress. So Hollywood!

Check out the rest of the photos, which include guy-who-plays-Dwight-Schrute Rainn Wilson, Iranian stage actress Mary Apick, and the best male Persian pop star of any of our lifetimes (Andy, duh), among others, in the full Noor Film Festival 2008 red carpet photo album.

So besides the pictures… our favorite thing of the night was the clip below. We say keep your eyes and ears open for this doc about prejudice and perception, Ain’t She Sweet, by Bita Haidarian:

Persepolis, the Movie: A Review

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Persepolis may be the most highly anticipated film in the Iranian community since 300 (and we all know how well that went). The critically acclaimed animated feature, based on the autobiographical comics by Marjane Satrapi, will probably not incite protest when it opens in Los Angeles and New York on Christmas Day this year, though.

I saw the film a couple of weeks ago and I liked it very much. Satrapi’s pretty much a genius and her movie is a beautiful work of art: hand-drawn, with excellent voice work by a very talented cast. She coached each actor separately, acting out all the other parts, and that sort of attention is evident in the performances.

But to hardcore devotees of the book (and I count myself as one), I have to warn you not to expect the best movie of your life. That’s the exact thought I had leaving the theater: “This was really good, but not, as I expected, the movie of my life.” Then I realized, well, that’s probably because it’s the movie of Marjane Satrapi’s life. Duh.

For you this may not be the case, but the same sort of connection I felt reading the books was not replicated for me in watching the film. There are probably a few reasons for this. First, I watched it in a theater full of strangers; obviously reading is solitary, more intimate. Second, there’s the whole classic book-to-movie thing: When you really love a book, it’s always hard for the movie to measure up. I nearly had the Persepolis books memorized, and the movie left out some things I loved and emphasized others I hadn’t noticed as much. It isn’t as funny as the books are, and a lot scarier and more graphic. Ultimately, books turned into movies are almost never as good as the movie you have playing in your head when you read… it’s dorky and obvious but true, and I think it happened for me with this movie. Third, music is a big part of any film, and Persepolis missed the mark: the compositions had an Eastern vagueness about them, and besides an off-key rendition of “Eye of the Tiger,” there wasn’t any other music from the era – the ’70s and ’80s – that I can remember (there’s an awesome Gole Yakh cover on the soundtrack album, though). And finally, on the way out of the theater, I overheard a girl behind me saying, “You guys, why didn’t they just leave Eye-ran when the revolution happened?” That put kind of a damper on the whole thing, so be prepared to correct misperceptions and fill in the inevitable history gaps.

Still, at the end of the day, you should go see Persepolis and you can safely expect it to be spectacular and wonderful. If you’re in San Francisco, you can see it on December 12 and see Marjane Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud (it’s a benefit for the San Francisco Film Society).

Persepolis: Los Angeles Screening in November

Don’t you hate it when film reviewers employ stale cliches about films, like,”You’ll laugh; you’ll cry…”? I do, too. Yet here I am, only having watched the trailer and “Making of Persepolis” (available on the film’s beautiful website), and I know for a fact that when I finally see Persepolis on November 10th, I will laugh (“Eye of the Tiger” never sounded better), and oh, how I will cry (“Here, I’ve made you another swan…”)…!Along with co-writer-director Vincent Parranaud, Marjane Satrapi and an army of artists have literally animated the pages of her overwhelmingly successful graphic novels, Persepolis; each image has been hand-drawn, traced in black felt tip, and filmed to create the final, highly-anticipated product. The result evokes what I believe is the raison d’etre of film adaptations (animated or otherwise) yet is so rarely achieved: an exhilarating visual experience that not only stands equal to the experience of the original page, but deeply intensifies it through the spectacle of the moving image.

Released in France in late June 2007, the film adaptation of Persepolis seems to have succeeded in this endeavor, having taken home the Jury Prize at Cannes, and already selected to represent France at the 2008 Oscars. After what feels like an eternity of anticipation, Persepolis has finally also been screened at various film festivals in North America (Toronto, Telluride, NYC, Austin, L.A.), and is set for limited release in the U.S. in December 2007.

For those of you Angelenos/as like myself who just can’t wait, your next opportunity to see the original French release is at the American Film Institute’s 2007 AFI FEST , which will screen Persepolis on November 10th, following a tribute to Catherine Deneuve, the renowned French actress who lends her voice to the film. (The English version will be a dub featuring Sean Penn, Iggy Pop, and Gena Rowlands, to name a few…I’d suggest going for the French original!) Here are the details:

PERSEPOLIS Screening
Saturday, November 10th 7:00pm
ArcLight Theatre 10 (map)

Vice on an Iranian Wedding

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Vice magazine has a freaky photo essay of an Iranian wedding, shot two years ago by sister-of-the-bride Sanna Sjöswärd. One of the photos is above. Sjöswärd was born in Iran, placed in an orphanage by her parents, and adopted by Swedes when she was four. She just came out with a book called “Roots” that is about going back to Iran to find her biological family. I haven’t seen it, but I want to.

Most people have seen photos of lavish Iranian weddings. Striking about this wedding album, though, is that the people are very poor and very religious. There’s a grotesque quality about the pictures – maybe it’s the garish makeup. The spellings of some of the names are a little off: “Sedighre,” “Mehti”?

If you’ve looked at Vice (not safe for work) before, you know their deal is seedy = hip. Their print issues are free (at least, they were when I read them in college) but it just gets a little exhausting after a while to look at, it’s so hipstery and disengaged. Still, an interesting representation of Iranian life here. What do you make of these photos?

Iranians on the Internet: Post-Mortem

So it’s been more than a week since the Iranians on the Internet conference happened in SF, and here are my thoughts, which I’ve been mulling over pretty much all this time:

1. Could blogs be the best teach-yourself-more-Persian tool for Iranian hyphenates? I think so! Some of the bloggers read some really good writing, particularly Leva Zand, whose profanity-peppered, satirical short story taught me at least one new choice word. (Sort of – I’m still trying to get someone to explain to me exactly what it means, but I’m not really sure who to ask because, well, it’s a bad word but I don’t know just how bad.) So while I’m not abandoning my efforts to find a good Persian book to read, I’ll be adding some Persian blogs to my feed reader. They’re much easier to read than news sites, seeing as blogs don’t generally employ the same horribly stilted, formal language of, say, Iranian newspapers.

2. Gathering does not equal conference. My expectations of the day were my own fault, because I expected a conference format – for instance, panels of bloggers instead of individual readings of blog posts. The event’s flyer clearly called it a gathering, though, which is what it was: a group of people who mostly knew each other from the online world, coming together offline. Gatherings and conferences are very different things. But regardless, two things that I was expecting from the day didn’t happen and I still wish they had. The first was an actual panel on Iranian.com, which I thought was going to happen because of the advertising about the day, but which actually turned out to be a surprise award ceremony with speeches about the site from various contributors. Jahanshah Javid definitely deserved the recognition but perhaps there could have been a panel talking about the site and its impact, and then the award? The second was a Balatarin.com presentation, which didn’t happen at all and which I’d really been looking forward to.

3. The music was awesome. Hamed Nikpay has some pretty legit pipes, man. I missed the first half of his performance because I was taking a breather outside and then kicked myself for it when I saw how good he was. And he had a non-Iranian guy playing the daf and miscellaneous accompanying percussion. Arash Sobhani of Kiosk was there, too, but unfortunately there was no singing from him.

4. Iranian bloggers = friendliest bloggers ever? Again, I think so. It was such a giving, open, friendly, and forthcoming group. I liked the questions people asked each other after each blog reading, and several times what I heard was that blogging was a crucial part of community building for recent immigrants of Iran to the U.S.

Also – lots of coverage of this event, which is cool… though I still wish they had a website for it all! See Iranican’s coverage below:
Part 1


Part 2
Also, photos: take a look at Talieh Shahrokhi’s pictures of the event.

Original Pars Arts Photos by Lizzie Leitzell

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I’m excited to announce the first Pars Arts-commissioned photography, featured in our homepage sidebar. Refresh the page, and each time you’ll see one of eight beautifully shot pictures of Persian artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The photos we had there before were almost all pulled from the web, so it’s great to have some beautiful original shots to take their place.

Many thanks go to New York-based freelance photographer Elizabeth Leitzell. Lizzie is a really talented artist (and a member of the Pars Arts Facebook group), and I’m honored that she agreed to take on this project. Thank you, Lizzie!