Mir­rors ev­ery­where


Pasatiempo - - CONTENT -

Reza’s world­wide per­spec­tive

French- I r anian pho­to­jour­nal­ist Reza Deghati, who i s known for his me­dia train­ing projects in strife- torn re­gions of the world, as well as for his stun­ning pho­to­graphs, is in Santa Fe for sev­eral events. A se­lec­tion of his pho­tos shows in an ex­hi­bi­tion that runs from Tues­day, Nov. 7, to Sun­day, Nov. 12, at the IAIA Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Na­tive Arts; he ap­pears at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter for a dis­cus­sion of his work on the evening of Wed­nes­day, Nov. 8; and he presents work­shops for In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Arts stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff on Nov. 8 and Thurs­day, Nov. 9. The In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Arts also shows his pho­to­graphs in its Lloyd Kiva New Wel­come Cen­ter on Mon­day, Nov. 6; the oc­ca­sion is the school’s an­nual open house and a build­ing ded­i­ca­tion for the new Per­form­ing Arts and Fit­ness Cen­ter.

The pho­tog­ra­pher, known as Reza, has made pho­to­graphs in more than a hun­dred coun­tries, in­clud­ing in war zones in So­ma­lia and Afghanistan and in dan­ger­ous neigh­bor­hoods of large cities. He has long been a con­trib­u­tor to National Ge­o­graphic, and his work is fea­tured on many of its cov­ers as well as in books; ar­ti­cles for Agence France-Presse, Time, and Newsweek; and National Ge­o­graphic Chan­nel doc­u­men­tary shows.

In 2001, he founded the non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion Aina (in Farsi, the name means “mir­ror”) in Afghanistan. Through his Reza Vis­ual Acad­emy and Aina, he has worked in me­dia train­ing — es­pe­cially for the ben­e­fit of women and chil­dren — around the world. A 2015 in­stal­la­tion along the banks of the Seine ti­tled A Dream of Hu­man­ity fea­tured Reza’s portraits of refugees along with pho­tos shot in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan by refugee chil­dren who were trained in his acad­emy pro­gram as “camp re­porters.” He has also had pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tions at the United Na­tions in New York, at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Brus­sels, and at the head­quar­ters of UNESCO (the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific, and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion) in Paris.

Reza’s re­cent work in­cludes Ex­ile Voices, a 20132017 project to train young Syr­ian refugees in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan; a 2015 photography train­ing pro­gram for young Maoris in New Zealand; and a 2017 photography work­shop with or­phans and dis­placed chil­dren in Ba­mako, Mali.

Pasatiempo: Why do you live in Paris? Reza: This is the best place for me to move around and also be in a nice city. Forty years ago, when I came out of Iran, there were only two cities that were cen­ters for pho­to­jour­nal­ism, Paris and New York.

Pasa: Will you be talk­ing here about the train­ing pro­grams in Mali and Iraqi Kur­dis­tan?

Reza: My talk will be two parts. One part will be go­ing through al­most 40 years of dif­fer­ent sto­ries which I cov­ered in dif­fer­ent places and the peo­ple I met. Then I will move to the train­ing and teach­ing and cre­at­ing me­dia train­ing for war zones. I started this train­ing in 2001 just days after the Tal­iban left Kabul. It is a big me­dia cen­ter, and till now we have trained more than a thou­sand Afghans. Pasa: Is that Aina? Reza: Yes, and it was not only a me­dia-train­ing cen­ter but job train­ing. We were help­ing them to start a news­pa­per, to start a mag­a­zine, to start a ra­dio or TV sta­tion, and we were bring­ing teach­ers from all over the world to help them both in jour­nal­ism and in man­ag­ing me­dia.

Pasa: You in­vest much of your in­come now in hu­man­i­tar­ian work.

Reza: Yes. In the past three years I was mainly in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan. I was shoot­ing for a book that will be re­leased now in a few days. It is called Kur­dis­tan

Re­nais­sance, which is about the hope that Kur­dis­tan would be an in­de­pen­dent place. Mainly the book is not con­cen­trat­ing on the war, even though I was a lot in the war zones, but it is about the peo­ple, the cul­ture, and land­scapes, just know­ing about who are the Kurds.

And I was teach­ing, in three dif­fer­ent refugee camps, kids from twelve to eigh­teen and dis­placed peo­ple. The one in Afghanistan is now mainly Afghans them­selves tak­ing care of the Aina, but there is also Ex­ile Voices, which is train­ing in the refugee camps, and Ur­ban Voices, which is in very dif­fi­cult neigh­bor­hoods in France, Sicily, and re­cently in Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, I ac­com­plished train­ing 50 of the kids in one of the most dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous neigh­bor­hoods, Fuerte Apache. Pasa: Train­ing them what, ex­actly? Reza: I train al­most the same way both the ur­ban kids and the refugees, ex­plain­ing to them that this is not about photography, it’s more about ex­press­ing your thoughts and what you want to say to the world — so mainly pho­tograph­ing daily life and fam­ily life and what is hap­pen­ing. It’s like a real re­portage, fam­i­lies doc­u­ment­ing their own lives. And then the next step after train­ing is mak­ing ex­hi­bi­tions of their works in the cen­ter of the cities. They be­came the voice of their own com­mu­ni­ties, invit­ing city peo­ple to come and visit and talk to them. Pasa: That must be em­pow­er­ing for those peo­ple. Reza: Yes, em­pow­er­ing them but also cre­at­ing re­la­tion­ships, be­cause most of the time the city peo­ple don’t want to go there, to those neigh­bor­hoods. It’s a way to show who they are and how they live.

Pasa: Hope­fully, that will re­sult in un­der­stand­ing and co­op­er­a­tion t hat can help change peo­ple’s cir­cum­stances.

Reza: Def­i­nitely. Photography is a major art now, and it speaks to ev­ery­body. By teach­ing them how to ex­press their emo­tions and how to look around them­selves, it’s not only em­pow­er­ing them but cre­at­ing this em­pa­thy be­tween the city peo­ple and those neigh­bor­hoods.

Pasa: In 2008, you spoke in Santa Fe with the jour­nal­ist Se­bas­tian Junger, with whom you trav­eled through Afghanistan.

Reza: Yes, and we talked about Afghanistan. I have been to Santa Fe twice. I’m an ar­chi­tect by train­ing, and Santa Fe ar­chi­tec­ture is one of the best ever I have seen. I am also hop­ing that I will have a train­ing work­shop in the univer­sity where I’m go­ing to have my ex­hi­bi­tion, for Na­tive Amer­i­cans and poor neigh­bor­hood kids.

Pasa: You have a big ex­hi­bi­tion at the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Na­tive Arts.

Reza: That will be 15 of my pho­to­graphs, and I will be sell­ing them to raise funds for my train­ing projects in refugee camps and also in Santa Fe and other places.


On the Road of the Cof­fee Fields, near Mi­rador de los Cuchu­matanes, Gu­atemala, 2012, © Reza

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