June 28, 2006
Iranian Photographer Documents the World
"One World, One Tribe" exhibit featured at National Geographic Society
Washington -- "I have always used my camera as a weapon to fight against war and injustice," says internationally acclaimed photographer Reza, whose photographs are on display this summer in the National Geographic Society's headquarters in Washington.
Dozens of Reza's works can be viewed inside the society’s museum and -- a National Geographic first -- along the portico surrounding the building, accessible to casual passers-by. They depict haunting and often beautiful scenes from the Caspian region, Egypt and other parts of the world.
The photographs, which will be on exhibit until October 9, represent only one aspect of Reza's social commitment. Aïna, a nongovernmental organization founded by Reza, works to build and develop a successful civil society through independent media and cultural projects. One of its efforts is Parvaz (meaning "to fly or soar"), a magazine published in both Pashto and Dari and distributed throughout Afghanistan as a teaching resource for young Afghans age 7–12.
"I believe one of the most important things we all have to do is educate children," Reza says."
Reza Deghati was born in 1952, in Tabriz, Iran. An aspiring photographer by the age of 14, he first trained his lens on rural Iranian society, capturing its grievances against the nation's central authority. The authorities soon took notice, and Reza started signing his work with his first name only. He spent three years in prison under the shah's regime. Later, he documented the Iranian revolution for the French Press Agency and worked as a Middle East correspondent for Newsweek and Time magazines.
Reza remains in exile from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In 1989 and 1990, Reza served as a consultant for the United Nations humanitarian program in Afghanistan. He then returned to photography, contributing a number of photographic essays on life in Asia and the Middle East to National Geographic magazine.
Many of Reza’s images depict encounters between the traditional and the modern.
An Azeri refugee herding his sheep past abandoned oil plants; a Soviet helicopter and a white bird crossing their paths near the holiest shrine in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan; Afghan villagers scamper down the rocky banks of the Konar River fleeing Soviet soldiers; two boys from the Islamic Republic of Iran carry the hollowed-out carcass of a television set in Turkish Kurdistan -- these and other works have earned Reza international recognition. In 2005, the French Senate awarded him the title "Chevalier de l' Ordre du Mérite" declaring his photographs “a lesson of solidarity and a lesson of faith in mankind."
Speaking June 23 at the National Geographic Society, Reza described his work as "doing war against war with my pictures."
"What I'm trying to explain is that the dignity of the human. The beauty of life is the most important thing that we should always think about. That is what I'm trying to convey in all my images."
More information about the exhibition is available at the National Geographic Society Web site.
More information about Aïna is available on its Web site.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)