SOAS University of London

Bahman Jalali

12 Photographic Journeys - Iran in the 21st Century

15 October - 12 December 2003

Bahman Jalali is the most accomplished and experienced of the ten exhibitors. He concentrates wholly on one theme: 'Steps'. Steps go up or down depending on the event he wants to capture. Two colours dominate: yellow and black. Yellow can be a taxi, a bag, a case, a bicycle. Black is women in 'chadors' or men walking up or down steps. The yellow remains fixed as the world around it changes. It organizes the events, is a reference point, a magnetic field around which all compositions become possible: movements down, movements up, until the summit is reached. Perhaps life is, after all, nothing but a passage, a continuous going and coming without aim, without end; it revolves around an axis which is everywhere, and a circumference that is nowhere. Or life could be, as Omar Khayyam saw it, an absurd repetition of cycles which comes back ceaselessly, in the same manner, for all eternity.

Bahman Jalali is the oldest and the master of the younger generation of emerging photographers. He was born in 1944 and is the author of several photography books as well as theoretical works in his field. He is one of the first to have launched photography as an art in Iran and to have made it acceptable as such to the general public. In the series presented here Jalali sat fixed at the bottom of the 'Steps', and allowed his subjects to define and compose themselves in front of his camera, both the elements and the colours which culminate in the infinite sky.