“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