In her latest photo series, Sarah Pannell captures the colourful soul of Tehran against a backdrop of mosaic-laden buildings, bright Persian street art and overflowing market stalls. Through her photos, Sarah aims to contribute to a positive dialogue on Iran, taking honest snapshots of a city she’s fallen in love with.
Words and Photography by Sarah Pannell
Tehran, the sprawling capital of Iran has a special energy which takes a while to appreciate as a foreigner; it’s a busy, bustling, noisy and chaotic city. With a population larger than that of New York City, the immense volume of cars that clog the city’s streets can be off putting for visitors and locals alike. But it’s the quieter backstreets of Tehran that I fell in love with.
This selection of images has been shot over the past four years, during three trips to Iran. During my most recent visit in August-September of 2019, I discovered a new level of fondness for Tehran, spending the warm evenings and early mornings wandering the city streets.
“I feel it’s imperative to create vignettes of a place that will challenge viewer perceptions.”
Why did you decide to create this series?
I hope to contribute to a positive dialogue on Iran, at a time when the relationship between the west and Iran is possibly at its most fraught in decades. For a country and its people to be so misunderstood from the outside, I feel it’s imperative to create vignettes of a place that will challenge viewer perceptions without eroticising a culture or falling into presenting the usual tropes; but rather celebrating the everyday moments. These photographs are my way of journaling – taking notes on a city and its people I have grown an attachment to.
“These photographs are my way of journaling – taking notes on a city and its people I have grown an attachment to.”
Your favourite photo from the series?
I feel the mood of the city is summed up in the energy and blur of the photograph taken at Haft-e-Tir Square in the centre of Tehran, which is home to a plethora of clothing shops and evening market stalls, including an array of stores specialising in manteau (an essential women’s garment for the streets of Iran). This was shot on an evening in early September during the first few days of the holy month of Muharram which involves a lot of evening ceremonies on the streets for those who take part in the religious month of mourning. The swirl of women with their vibrant scarves and the surrounding buzz of life makes this a special image from my perspective.
“The swirl of women with their vibrant scarves and the surrounding buzz of life makes this a special image.”
What gear did you use to shoot it?