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Finalist 2023, Payram

“I’m developing work around the fragility of my condition as an exile, which I compare with the fragility of the silver medium”


Since 1988, Payram made a name for himself as a large-format black-and-white silver printer, before gaining recognition as a photographer. Haunted by his departure from Iran, the country of his birth which he had to flee in 1983 because of the Islamic revolution, his photographic work is based on experimentation and the “paradox of light”, as he likes to say. Because to master it, you have to be in the dark: “I’m developing work around the fragility of my condition as an exile, which I compare with the fragility of the silver medium”, he explains. So he explores the Iran he can’t set foot in by proxy. Through a dual sensitivity, that of his emotions lurking in the time and place of his childhood, and the alchemical sensitivity that reveals the images. Over the decades, Payram has used a variety of tools and techniques, paying as much attention to the process of creating the images when he takes them as he does to the process of printing them in the darkroom. He has worked with a wide range of Polaroid cameras and used film, as well as with the camera when, since 2001, he left his studio to travel. First in Syria for ten years using Polaroid Original 55, then in various countries of Central Asia, in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, following in the footsteps of Paul Nadar, but above all as close as possible to Iran. “I took up the equipment tested by Paul Nadar at the end of the 1890s. Like him, I left the studio to return, this time to the ruins of Sovietism, to the countries of the Silk Road, which strangely revolve around Iran”. It’s no coincidence. From this journey, he brought back images with a strong documentary character, which is unusual for him. Often in black and white, Payram’s images are not so much recognisable by their aesthetics – for they are rich and varied – but by their soul.

by Sophie Bernard

Read Biography

    Since leaving Iran in 1983, driven out by the Islamic revolution, Payram (b. 1959) has been developing his photographic work around the fragility of his condition as an exile, which he parallels with the fragility of the silver medium. Like an alchemist, he experiments with the transformation of matter and the trace of light.

    In 2011, he published Syria 55 (Editions Gang), a moving account of a Syria in the throes of change, whose sensations (hearing, taste, touch…) remind him of his native Iran: Aleppo, Damascus and Latakieh (soap, metal, stone), photographed between 2000 and 2010 with Polaroid 55, bear the traces of the past and a tradition, but also the seeds of a fatal fall.

    In 2015, he took part in the 7th Rendez-vous Photographique (Sète) ImageSingulières and the Festival itinéraires des photographes voyageurs in Bordeaux. In 2016, he had a solo exhibition at the Pôle photographie STIMULTANIA in Strasbourg, and in 2017, Editions
    Le Bec en l’Air published the monograph Il y a beaucoup de lumière ici, on the occasion of his solo show at Paris Photo. In 2020, he takes part in the exhibition Noir & Blanc : Une Esthétique De La Photographie at the Grand Palais.

    In 2021, he publishes Dialogue photographique sur les route de la soie (photographs by Paul Nadar and Payram, texts by Mathilde Falguière & Michel Poivert), published by Editions Le Bec en l’Air: this camera-based series, begun with the announcement of the closure of the Kodaak silver factories, takes Payram from Tajikistan (the only Persian-speaking country in the region), to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.

    His photographic work can be found in numerous public collections (Musée Elysée Lausanne, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art…) and private collections (Neuflize OBC Collection, JPMorgan Collection…).


    Fragile, Paris, France, 1994

    Fragile, Paris, France, 1994

    Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle, Paris, France, 1995 / 2021

    Printemps, Paris, France, 1992 / 1994

    Printemps, Paris, France, 1992 / 1994

    Sur les traces de Paul Nadar Azerbaïdjan, 2016

    Pierre, Latakia, Syrie, 2007

    Pierre, Latakia, Syrie, 2008