As plans take shape for the festival in 2017, the Journeys Festival International team had the pleasure to catch up with the first confirmed artist - the Iranian creator Farhad Berahman. His latest work ShahreFarang is a traditional Iranian peep box sculpture and will be exhibited as part of the Leicester festivals event.
Berahman's artwork tells a story that everyone can relate to, one of nostalgia, memory and what it is to feel at home.
Hi Farhad! Please tell us a little bit about yourself…
I am an Iranian photographer and artist based in the UK, specialising in social documentary and the Middle East. In 2007, I began working with Associated Press in the UAE and Middle East. I was nominated in 2009 for a World Press Photo award for the best young talented photographer in the MENA region. My work has been published by the BBC; AP; The New York Times; Guardian; Washington Post; Figaro and a range of other leading news agencies. I won a scholarship to study for an MA in photojournalism and documentary photography at the University of the Arts London in 2013.
I recently received an Arts Council England Grant for Arts award to support my current project and work. In recent years my practice has moved from social documentary to more conceptual and sculptural work using photography.
Your Shahre Farang project focusses on the theme of home. What reminds you of home?
I’ve been moving a lot since the age of 20 and these dreams and memories stays ingrained within me wherever I go. Home to me is the place where my roots are and I get inspired from. There are many things that remind of home such as: Carpet, Children or a warm, bright house.
What is it about this theme that you like?
I live with my childhood memories and often I have dreams of a place where I grow up. As an artist I’d like to reflect what goes on in my mind and turn it to an art form. I think one aspect of migration that is yet to be properly challenged is about the memories that were left behind and the challenges that come with making new memories in adopted home.
You work, ShahreFarang, is a sculptural peep box. Please can you tell us a bit about the history of the peep boxes?
A ShahreFarang is an Iranian version of a peep box - a form of entertainment provided by wandering storytellers back in the 19th to the 20th Century. The name in Persian means European City and the images shown allowed everyday Iranians to see exotic cities such as London, Paris and Rome, places they’d be unlikely to have visited.
I intend to construct a replica of a traditional ShahreFarang. My ShahreFarang will house the memories of Iranians now living in exile in the UK. Asking them where they would go to if they could return home today, I plan to use a network of Iranian based photographers to capture these places as images on camera. The work will provide an intimate yet nostalgic portrait of Iran made from afar.
Is there a reason you wished to step away from the digital realm in your art?
I have noticed how our lives are closely intertwined with technology. We are continually glued to our electronic screens – so much so that we have become desensitized to various images placed over the Internet and somehow have lost the patience to engage with an artwork.
Through the man-made sculpture I hope that people will revisit memories through a more intimate process and without the use of modern day advanced technology.
What will you be getting up to as part of Journeys Festival International?
There will be an exhibition of ShahreFarang from 21st of August to 3rd of September at LCB Depot.
I will be running workshops alongside where public participants share memories of a time away from home, what they missed, what places and experiences reminded them of home.
After basic photographic training we will make responses to each other’s memories. This experience replicates my making of the artwork; having another person create from your memory because you are unable to do so yourself. By doing this work the participants will learn about photography, while exploring experiences that refugees and newcomers experience every day.
I will also be sharing my project as the lead artist at a Coffee Shop Conversation event.
What is it about photography and sculpture that appeals to you?
Photography has been part of my life for the past 12 years and it became part of my daily routine without noticing. I think my interest for sculpture started when I was making instruments when I was younger. We were working hours and hours with wood to build a Tar (Persian instrument) and I found the process quite therapeutic, in such a way that I didn’t have any notion of time.
I normally enjoy the process of making an artwork more than the finished piece. I’ve been trying to find ways to incorporate other forms of art with photography and I think Shahre Farang is a good approach to combine sculpture and photography. I found Shahre Farang quite a fascinating project because there are different layers to this project from design, decoration photography, to the message that I am trying to pass.
What does it mean to be part of Journeys Festival International for you?
It is a great pleasure to be part of Journey Festival International and share my work with new audiences and meet other artists that work around the same topic. It’s my first time with Journeys, so I am very excited about it.
Follow Farhad on Instagram for beautiful images daily: @FarhadBerahman
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