Nicolas Boyer documents an often overlooked side to Iran

The photographer explores rarely covered regions, dealing with isolation and arrests on his journey.

24 February 2020

“I lost my left eye in an accident when I was a child and since then I always feel that my reduced field of vision is like being locked in a frame, a bit like the viewfinder of a camera,” says French photographer, Nicolas Boyer.

He feels this is one of the main reasons he was drawn to the medium in the first place. “This probably explains my attraction for the image; and the fact that I don't have to close an eye to shoot saves me three tenths of a second on my colleagues - which allows me to capture Cartier-Bresson's famous decisive moment!”

His recent series of images on Iran are often based around these opportune moments, containing scenes that are ever so slightly different to what you’d expect. “My own perception is probably different from yours or someone else's, but most of the time I try to find out what may be incongruous in a situation,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I completely subscribe to that quote from Elliott Erwitt: ‘It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.’”

Nicolas’ path to photography was not a straightforward one, initially working as a financial analyst, then briefly in advertising as a mock-up carrier, of which he says: “melted my grey matter faster than an ice pack in summer.” He returned to study photography at Ecole des Gobelins in Paris, and subsequently worked in advertising as an art director at TBWA/Paris before deciding to go freelance as a photographer and photojournalist.

It is this varied experience that informs his photography now, “My background as an advertising creative means that I like to combine humour or derision with aesthetics as much as possible.” And he goes on to cite this image of the balloon seller next to a statue as a shining example of this.


Nicolas Boyer

In spite of this, Nicolas is aware of the dangers of this approach, and makes an attempt to avoid falling into the trope of cliched images that we see so often these days. “I know that I don't want to fall into what pseudo street photographers do after watching too much Alex Webb, whose work I admire but who has messed up some people's brains a little too much. Instagram is full of these images that don't tell a story and are satisfied with a very strong contrast or an element that comes out of a wall plunged in shadow, or, with a small coloured graphic effect. It all seems very hollow to me.”

Long been interested in Iran, Nicolas decided it was somewhere he needed to go, and over multiple visits he managed to cover both the tourist trail as well as rarely covered areas. These more difficult regions included former war zones, and while shooting here was much more of an ordeal, as you can expect, it provided him with some of his favourite images. “I was the only foreigner for a month everywhere I went, so it was difficult to blend in. That's why I was arrested 2-3 times (in Abadan or in the southern districts of Tehran in particular) to check my identity or my photos,” says the photographer.

One of the benefits that Nicolas found in these untouched areas was the remoteness, which in such a large country, was not difficult to find: “The emptiness created in many of my images allows me to focus on certain urban elements or social archetypes.”

With a book soon to be released on Japan, Nicolas hopes to interest a publisher to turn these images into a book too, emphasising a desire to ensure that they do not just stay in the digital sphere. “The tangible support of a book as an object seems important to me,” he says. “This is in order to fight against an increasingly virtual world.

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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