Iranian Living Room is a photobook published by Fabrica under the creative direction of its head of photography, Italian photojournalist Enrico Bossan, who is also editor at Colors magazine. The imagery in the book depicts daily life in Iranian homes, adding meaningful context to our general vision of Iran as a dictatorship. It shows how beneath Ahmadinejad’s regime is a population of – especially young – men and women that may not be as different than those from our “free world” as we would think.
Paypal and the word ‘Iranian’
Speaking of free world, it’s ironic how the book was the object of a very peculiar episode of censorship. The widely-known online payment system Paypal initially wouldn’t allow for Iranian Living Room to be purchased through them. It turned out the problem was the “Iranian” word in the title, which seems to automatically block operations for products that carry it in their descriptions (it has happened before). Mr. Bossan preferred not to comment on this matter, but Fabrica’s CEO Dan Hill published a detailed post about this on his blog, announcing Fabrica will ditch Paypal for their e-commerce needs as soon as possible (specifying it just couldn’t be done right away).
Hello Mr. Bossan, thank you for this interview. You are the head of photography at Fabrica, “a communications research centre, studio and school” part of the Benetton Group. What exactly do you do at Fabrica? What’s your mission?
Fabrica is a hybrid space, comprising applied research, learning, and project/product work. We aim to create the next generation of creative leaders, capable of positively addressing complex but fundamental societal issues such as climate change, urbanisation, migration and cultural diversity, demographic explosions, amongst others, as well as extending design and communications practice.
The range of disciplines is very diverse, such as design, communication, photography, code, video, music, journalism and media, and so on. There are no annual courses, schedules or programmes, no formal tuition or semesters; instead learning is through real projects for real clients. Researchers are invited here directly for a residency period of twelve months and they work under the guidance and mentorship of internationally renowned professionals.
Let’s talk about Iranian Living Room, the first photobook published by Fabrica under your creative direction. The book opens a window on private life in Iran, immediately questioning our conception of this country. How was the idea of the book born?
The idea of a book about Iran came to my mind more than 20 years ago: it was 1989 and I came to Iran after a journey through China and Pakistan. There was a palpable tension in those years and you sensed without really understanding why that something was preventing the normal passing of time. I felt the urgency to get in touch with the local people, get to know more about how they lived. But I had only two weeks to spend in Iran and I was travelling from one town to another. So I had no chance to develop this idea. But I kept it in the back of my mind and now, 24 years later, I could finally bring it to life.
The images in Iranian Living Room show how everyday life in Iran isn’t so different from everyday life in Western countries. Do you think this clarifies or further complicates our idea of what kind of country Iran is?
The purpose of this book is to help know better a fascinating country such as Iran, with its heritage of history and tradition and look at it with a new, more positive attitude. Iran is a country where more than the half of the population is made by young people. Like young people everywhere, they are eager to know about the rest of the world.
The pictures in the Iranian Living Room are by 15 young Iranian photographers. How were they selected?
Surfing in the internet my attention was caught by the photos of Farhad Babaei, a young Iranian photographer. I contacted him and he helped me get in contact with some interesting young photographers. I selected 20 out of around 50 and delivered a workshop for them in Tehran. After that I made the final selection and 15 photographers were invited to be part of the project.
The book, on which you worked in collaboration with designer An Nam Young, is a beautiful product not only because of its imagery but also for the design solutions adopted in terms of graphics, layout and materials. The cover design powerfully evokes Eastern culture as do the inner pages illustrated with carpet patterns. Could you share some insights into the design process behind the book?
The Iranian Living Room book deals with sensitive matters of cultural tradition, yet it is ultimately forward looking and optimistic. The design and layout decisions were informed by this, as a platform to reveal the unseen narratives of Iranian life.
The photographic content of the book was made by 15 young Iranian photographers, so the book is built around the concept of 15 small books, made into one collective book. Each “book” within the book follows the same structure, introduced by an Iranian carpet, which is the iconic symbol of everyday domestic life. Like the photographers, and their subject matter, each carpet is unique, but they share the same cultural archetypes that make them Iranian.
Are there plans to produce more photobooks in the future?
We do have this in mind.
Over at Fabrica, young people aged no more than 25 year-old are invited to apply for a collaboration with your research centre. What does a 25 year-old have that anyone older doesn’t?
Fabrica was born to foster young creativity. We think young artists/researchers have an innovative, fresh and genuine approach to the world around them and we want to enhance it. Moreover, there are so many young creative talented people that just need a hand to express their skills and ability. Fabrica was thought to help them.
The following is a promotional video of Iranian Living Room
And this is an interview of Fabrica’s CEO Dan Hill speaking to CNN about Iranian Living Room.
Buy Iranian Living Room
Iranian Living Room can be bought through Fabrica’s store. Highly recommended.