Gilles Peress, Telex Iran: In The Name Of Revolution, essay by Gholam-Hossein Sa’edi (Millerton, NY: Aperture), 112 pp., 100 black and white photographs.
The great virtue of this oversized book—Frenchman Peress’s pictures from 1979 to 1980—is its orchestration of a country cracking apart in revolution. The sense that all things are possible is patent, and so, given the foreboding on the faces of Peress’s subjects and the viewer’s own hindsight, is the sense that all things are forbidden. The spookiest photos are perhaps those of images of women, images now banned (to display them could bring the death penalty): a poster of a woman’s face in a bus window, an amusement-park mural of a satyr carrying off his prey. Almost every living woman seen here is veiled by the chador; with amazing force, these erotic images suggest not freedom to be exercised but sin to be wiped out. Gholam-Hossein Saedi’s afterword claims that the “Shah’s regime… was merely a beautiful carpet spread over a swamp teeming with unknown worms and insects”; he means the fanatics of the revolution. Following Peress’ pictures, this seems like class bias. Revolutionary Iran is evil, but its evil is its own, not that of the CIA, which installed the Shah’s regime in 1953. The history revolutionary Iran is making is evil, but it is real history, and so, all fragments and subjective/commercial choices (I’ve got to shoot that, Peress says; can my agency sell it?), is this book.
Artforum, December 1984