By Sana Panjwani
Google “Iran” and articles focusing on nuclear deals, IDF strikes and sectarian divides will pop up on your screen.
For a country whose culture and civilization is one of the oldest in the world, not much is said about its modern culture. Many foreigners and Persians themselves fail to see and appreciate Iran’s ubiquitous culture – with its apparent influence in South and East Asian countries, as well as far-clung locations such as Italy and Greece – due to stereotypes, skewed discourse and the media’s constant association of Iran with violence, nuclear agreements and political tug of wars.
Mass media thrives on tales of violence and bloodshed, and therefore often overlooks events that are of equal importance to a country’s image.
For instance, take the story of 28 year old Iranian engineer and skateboard enthusiast whose invitation to all skaters to come and enjoy the thriving skating community in Tehran led to the The Persian Version, a 30-minute film highlighting, not the forced cliché “they’re just like us”, but the passion and determination of local skaters. Or take the story of Monir Sharoudy Farmanfarmaian, the first Iranian artist to have a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum.
These are the stories that are often overlooked by the media in pursuit of more sensationalized coverage, and it is that pursuit which costs a beautiful country like Iran to be reduced to being viewed as anything other than the cultural hub it is.
Surprisingly, Instagram is becoming the unexpected, yet welcome, medium which serves as a window into the normal lives of the people of Iran:
1. Sina Shiri – @sinashirii
A photojournalist at the age of 16, Sina Shiri started off by clicking pictures for a student-run news agency in Qazvin. Now, at 24, Shiri works on self-assigned projects all in an effort to change the world’s perceptions of Iran.
“The cliché photos, they usually show the limitations of Iran, like the hijab, the covering of women, the hardship or the limitations,” says Shiri. “I don’t want to show only the limitations. I want to show that Iran is a different country than what you are seeing in photos.”
His Instagram feed is full of candid shots of Iran, outlining everything from the innocence of two children to the hardships lined on the faces of citizens.
2. Everyday Iran – @everydayiran
Founded by five photographers in hopes of dismantling the stereotypes and visual tropes constantly reinforced by the mainstream media, Everyday Iran is a celebration of life’s simple pleasures.
3. Persian Cooking – @persiancook
Nothing gives a deeper insight into a country’s culture than its food.
With beautifully shot images of Persian cuisine spread across the Instagram feed, Persian Cooking is the account of a simple Iranian citizen who just wants to share their passion for Iranian food with the world.
From succulent Iranian sweets and samanoo to rich and vibrant saffron rice, this feed is your delicious window into Iranian fare.
4. Ali Kaveh – @kavehali
As one of the co-founders and curators of Everyday Iran, this Tehran-based freelance photographer offers a unique perspective of Iran, with his countless black-and-white photos focusing attention on each image’s actions rather than its mise-en-scene.
5. Mehdi Ghadyanloo – @mehdighadyanloo
Street artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo uses social media to share his passion-filled artwork with the world. At times minimalist, Ghadyanloo’s work can be interpreted as social commentary on the societal hierarchies at play or, a more unpretentious view is to see it as a painter who just wants to paint.
6. Iranian Street Style – @irstreetstyle
Send a quick message and you’re on your way to being featured on Iranian Street Style.
With clean, styled shots, this fashion account is another glimpse into Iran’s culture, further dismantling the stereotypes that Iranian women who don hijabs are being oppressed.
This feed hopes to spread the message that happiness isn’t too far from wearing your favorite outfit.
7. This Is Iran – @this_is_iran
An accumulation of countless experiences in Iran, This Is Iran has a simple, yet powerful message – Iran is a place of inspiration, of surprise, of colour and of life. Displaying beautifully-shot images of Iran’s architecture and scenery, This Is Iran’s Instagram name is its motto.
8. Holly Dagres – @hdagres
This Egypt-based Iranian-American Instagrammer is an analyst and commentator of Middle Eastern affairs.
Having lived 7 years in Iran as a child, Holly is always striving to dismantle any and all misconceptions regarding Iran.
From simple shots of the harbour to filtered images of a local coffee house, Dagres’ Instagram feed is as normal as normal can get, simply showing that normalcy is in greater prevalence in Iran than the turmoil often presented.