“When I saw the Iranian women in Newsha Tavakolians photos last year, to be honest I was quite impressed by the freedom of new generation Iranian men and women, and I really wanted to travel there straight away,” London-based, Turkish-born photographer Olgaç Bozalp told us.
“I had a feeling about the new generation in Iran. Despite being closed to the rest of the world, they are really open and modern in their own society which was something that I really wanted to explore.” A few months later, Antidote magazine approached Olgaç with the opportunity to shoot an entire issue of the magazine around the theme “borders”, which the photographer saw as “the perfect opportunity to go to Iran”.
Travelling with his best friend and stylist Ruth Higginbotham, Olgaç set his sights on the country’s capital Tehran and the city of Kashan in the Isfahan province, undeterred by one glaring problem: “un-Islamic” modelling has been forbidden in Iran since the Islamic Revolution.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hesitate approaching people when I first arrived in Iran, but a couple of days later I found that Iranian people were very friendly and open to being photographed in a fashion story,” Olgaç says. “We mostly photographed people in their houses as we were told that it might be too risky to photograph people on the street. We tried to combine fashion with people’s own clothes to make sure we were keeping the people the way they are, because the country has a [complex] history with the west and we wanted to make sure we were not portraying the wrong image.”
For all the photographer’s efforts at local diplomacy, greater forces were at play. “When we were there, Trump made the decision to ban Iranian citizens from entering the US. We felt deeply sad after meeting the people of a wonderful nation.”
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