The photographer and artist Berahman’s work ShahreFarang explores memories of home working with Iranians now living in exile in the UK. This project seeks to show a different perspective on this forced migration, a more personal side to the anonymous view we see in the media in the UK. It shares the experience of a number of asylum seekers who may never be able to set foot in their homeland again. Berahman has asked them to describe where they would go if they could go back home and has then worked with a network of photographers based in Iran to recreate these visual memories.
The structure Berahman has had custom made by skilled craftsmen is a unique design based on a traditional ShahreFarang. A ShahreFarang is an Iranian version of a portable peep box traditionally taken around the country by wandering storytellers. The name in Persian means European city and in these travelling structures photography of far off places were brought to the masses who experienced it as exotic entertainment.
Berahman has built a contemporary version of this for a UK audience, with three viewing lenses visitors can look through to see a moving display of back lit images. Covered in aged bronze metal sheets Berahman has created a sculpture which references symbols and architectural motifs of Iran. Inside viewers will see a more contemporary image of Iran today filtered through people’s memories of ‘home’. In the images we see Iranians in cities and also in the countryside, we see them at leisure and at special family occasions. It offers us insights to a place few of us will ever visit.
Berahman has significantly altered his working practice to develop this work in which he has become an art director and editor commissioning work made remotely. He has selected images which covers the breadth of life in Iran. The images have a wonderful cinematic sense to them as freeze frames of people’s memories. It is a work which does not only speak of one specific cultural context but more widely asks us to consider how our own memories of home, of far off cultures and of the past are filtered through photography. As an interactive and engaging experience this ShahreFarang transports us to another places and time.