Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Power of Photography- Iran

During our inauguration in January, two of my photography friends from the Digital Image Cafe : Richard Shiro and Stuart Dahne photographed the people at the Mall as they gathered to celebrate our new President. Click on their names to view these amazing images which really captured the ambiance and exuberance of this historic event.

Photography captures not only the actions taking place during historic events, but also the emotions - the joys, the anger, the sorrow, the excitement, the victories, and the defeats. We won't be present to witness many of the world's great historic events, but we can experience them vicariously through the photos that are taken.

My son is an avid news reader and let me know about getting better information about the situation in Iran through Twitter. I started following the post election protests a couple of weeks ago, much of it from Twitter. I've run across some websites that have given me some new insight into modern Iran.

Iran before the election Part 1 and Part 2. give some amazing views of Iran before this election unrest. Iran's young people are highly educated. Tehran is a modern city. Because of the political and religious issues that separate the United States and Iran, Americans don't go to Iran for their vacations. The political rhetoric and the issues that the religious extremists of Islam create color our view of Iran and its people.

Through MSNBC reporter, Ann Curry's Twitter I found this Flickr Gallery of images Warning: While most of the images show the ordinary people who are protesting the fraudulent election results, some show the Basiji violent responses. Some images are graphic. I also found powerful imagery at Social Documentary.net. I have not yet had time to see all of the many images here, but the images I see showed me young people who want more - more freedom to express themselves, freedom to chose their government leadership, freedom from fear, better rights for their women. They want good things for their people. In a repressive society, it takes courage to take to the streets when the risk of death, brutal beatings, imprisonment, and torture are all too real. When you realize that the Iranian government has shut down all traditional media news reporting, these images become more valuable, because people risked their lives just to take them and get them posted on the internet. International reporters have been confined to their offices and are not allowed to do the traditional reporting. When I read my normal news on My Yahoo from the Associated Press, Reuters, etc; I don't find much information about what is going on, because of these restrictions. Most articles start with this caveat: "EDITOR'S NOTE: Iranian authorities have barred journalists for international news organizations from reporting on the streets and ordered them to stay in their offices. This report is based on the accounts of witnesses reached in Iran and official statements carried on Iranian media." Iran is a world power. What happens in Iran can have repercussions around the world. I find these photos to be important - the outcome of the Sea of Green protests will make a big difference in the day to day lives of the Iranian people. And I have to wonder with the news reporting being so difficult, how many Americans and Europeans are aware of the magnitude of these courageous struggles for a fair, democratic election.

While still photography tells a powerful story, film photography can go even farther as we can both watch and listen to people talk about what they think and feel. When looking up more about Ann Curry, I discovered this Dateline special about Iran filmed before the election. It takes some time to view all the segments, it is worth the time because this special report gives an intimate view of the changes occurring within Iran.

As a Christian and as an American, I know that I don't understand all that is going on in Iran right now. But from reading the tweets and seeing the photographs, I am praying for Iran right now with more insight. All people want to live in the own homes in security, want to have a safe journey to and from their jobs each day, want to have families and raise their children . . . I can't believe that most people in Tehran feel safe right now - it must be unsettling and uncomfortable and terrifying. Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies and these photographs give me faces of real people who are going through incredibly difficult times. God gave me a tender heart to care when such horrible things are happening - even when it is in a far away place that I will probably never visit - even when it is happening to people I don't know and will never meet.

These photographs also give me hope. There is much that separates Iran and the Western world - concerns over nuclear weapons, concerns over Iran's relationship with Israel, religious conflicts between Christianity which emphasizes grace and freedom and Iranian Islam's strict laws and punishments. Political change is rarely an easy process, but the vast majority of Iran's population are young. Perhaps there are leaders in the making both in the Western world and in Iran that can find a way to work through these conflicts finding acceptable compromises, so that our world will truly be a more peaceful place.

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