Similarities Outshine Differences in Photo Essay of Iranian Youth

Mehran Hamrahi is a twenty seven year old photographer with experience capturing the events of two major earthquakes in his home country of Iran in both 2011 and 2012. Mehran learned his skill at the Iranian Youth cinema society in 2009. Currently, Mehran is putting his efforts into a project that documents the daily and often misinterpreted lives of Iranian youth in his project titled "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals?"

"Zia, 28, playing his electric guitar in his room. He is the leader of a rock band and dreams of performing live, in public. In the past, religious extremists have mistreated, even tortured, Iranian musicians without any clear explanation." From the series "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals?" ©Mehran Hamrahi

"Zia, 28, playing his electric guitar in his room. He is the leader of a rock band and dreams of performing live, in public. In the past, religious extremists have mistreated, even tortured, Iranian musicians without any clear explanation." From the series "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals?" ©Mehran Hamrahi

The photos published to this date include youth identified solely by their first name. The actions depicted in the work are activities that could be considered innocent, statistically common to youth and young adults in the Western world. The photos show youth and young adults from age 18 to 30 partaking in relatable pastimes: getting a first tattoo, shopping for trendy and stylish clothing, applying makeup, playing loud music while driving, smoking cigarettes, drinking and dancing at a social outing, playing a musical instrument, caring for pets, logging into a facebook account, spending time with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and choosing to follow a faith outside of Islam. All of the recreational ventures mentioned above are punishable by law In Iran, and in some cases, by death.

"Arash, 26, dancing with his friends. This is his 26th birthday party. It is forbidden for girls and boys to dance together. If the police find out, everyone will be imprisoned for some number of days. Arash offered the police 1000 dollars to stay away for the night. From the series "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals?" ©Mehran Hamrahi

"Arash, 26, dancing with his friends. This is his 26th birthday party. It is forbidden for girls and boys to dance together. If the police find out, everyone will be imprisoned for some number of days. Arash offered the police 1000 dollars to stay away for the night. From the series "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals?" ©Mehran Hamrahi

Mehran's goal is in his project to show the world the simple similarities between Iranian youth and Western youth, rather the misconceived extreme displays mistakenly projected by the media. “Many Westerners have a negative perception of Iran in their minds. They see images of fanatical Iranians and assume these beliefs are held by the whole population. My project aims to convey a portrait of the daily lives of Iranian youth, the ones who dream of pursuing 'a free life'.”

"Maryam, 29, playing with her pet. Keeping pet dogs is prohibited in Islam. Those who have dogs are afraid of bringing their pets to the veterinary because the police might seize the dog and take it to the slaughterhouse." From the series "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals?" © Mehran Hamrahi

"Maryam, 29, playing with her pet. Keeping pet dogs is prohibited in Islam. Those who have dogs are afraid of bringing their pets to the veterinary because the police might seize the dog and take it to the slaughterhouse." From the series "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals?" © Mehran Hamrahi

This is what is beautifully felt by the viewer of these photos: a quick ability to relate and comprehend the desire to build ones life from familial to independence. All of the youth and young adults depicted work to conceal their activities, and often feel desperate in their pursuit of what they call 'a free life'. Due to their limitations and lack of approved recreation, according to the Iranian Psychiatric Association, between 15 to 20 percent Iranian youths suffer from depression. The country has one of the largest young population in the world: 70% of the 76 million population are under 35. Many dream of leaving Iran and pursuing modern lives, rather then following traditional and what they feel are limiting policies.

"Ali, 26, is talking to his girlfriend Feri, 25. They prefer to meet each other in their homes, which are safe. Relationships between boys and girls is illegal in Iran. Meeting outside of the house could lead them to serious punishment." From the series "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals?" © Mehran Hamrahi

"Ali, 26, is talking to his girlfriend Feri, 25. They prefer to meet each other in their homes, which are safe. Relationships between boys and girls is illegal in Iran. Meeting outside of the house could lead them to serious punishment." From the series "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals?" © Mehran Hamrahi

Mehran's photos show young people who are growing up, learning about who they are and enjoying their friends and romantic partners around them. They communicate the story of young people with hopes, dreams, hobbies and desires incredibly similar to any of those young people in the world. They reach out to connect with their observers and portray the truth that we as human beings are more alike then different. “I am trying to introduce the Iranian youth to the world and narrate their stories in ways that are true to their hopes.”

View the entire set of photos here:

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/mehran-hamrahi-iranian-people-ordinary-or-criminals

 

 

 

 

 

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