Taking Photos in Imam Khomeini Square

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How long have you been taking pictures like this?

My father did this before me, though I started using this technique with the posters six years ago. At first I made my own posters, bought different images at the market and mixed them up with scissors. I used Islamic symbols, Iranian poetry, postcard pictures.

How do you take the picture?

I take one picture of the poster with a filter lens over it and a dot on the lens blocking out the middle. Then, on the same film, I hold the button to prevent rolling and take an image of the subject on another lens that blocks everything except that room for the dot.

So you take two images on one piece of film?

Yes.

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Do you know anyone else who uses this technique?

Only Mehdi, who works near Baharestan Square.

Who are your customers?

Our customers are mostly young Afghan men, though we’ve had so few in the last months. Iranians don’t come as much. Most of them have their own cameras.

Why aren’t you getting as many Afghan customers?

Because they’re being forced to go back to Afghanistan by the United Nations.

Do you ever get female customers?

Just you.

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How many customers do you get a day?

There was a time that I would get two hundred a day. Now it’s closer to thirty.

Do you make enough money to go on?

Barely.

How much is each photo?

Two for 500 tomans (about sixty cents).

I’ve seen street photographers at Azadi monument, too, on the grass. Any idea how much they charge?

Two for 250 tomans, but they don’t have special backgrounds to chose from like I do. They just have their subjects lay on the grass in front of the monument.

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What do you think people do with the photographs once you print them?

The Afghans send them back to Afghanistan to prove to their families that they are alive. Or they just hand them to someone going back to give to their families or friends. Sometimes they keep one for themselves; that’s why I print two.

Are there certain icons that certain groups of customers tend to select?

Iranians like landscapes, like waterfalls and mountains. They also like poems. The Afghans select pictures of people from their own history, like Ahmed Shah Massoud. Many of them can’t read. They also like Indian actors—Amir Khan, Sharokh Khan, Salmon Khan —and city scenes, like cars and buildings. Sometimes they chose girls and some others chose pictures of Mecca or Imam Hossein. Pakistanis come here sometimes too, but not as much.

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I see you have some with planes.

After 9/11 we had more people selecting towers or planes. But actually I think that has more to do with a symbol of city life than with what happened in America.

How often do you change your poster stock?

Every two to three months, because they get creases and look old.

How many posters do you have to choose from now?

About fifty.

Where do you get them?

The poster market on Nasser Khosrow Street, near the bazaar, on Kooche Bandaloo.

Would you ever use a computer and Photoshop to do this work?

I haven’t thought about that. I probably couldn’t afford it.

Do you think you could ever become rich through this work?

Never.

So why bother doing it?

It’s what I know best. It’s all I can do.

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