OUR INSPIRATIONS | Abbas Attar

Attar Abbas

Abbas Attar is an Iranian photographer known for his photojournalism in Biafra, Vietnam and South Africa in the 1970s, and for his extensive essays on religions in later years. His most recent projects focus on the religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. During the 1970s he made a number of trips to Iran, taking pictures of the extraordinary impact that the western petro-dollars had made on the country’s society. Between 1978 and 1980, Abbas established a worldwide reputation as a photographer by documenting the 1979 Iranian revolution.

He was a member of Sipa from 1971 to 1973, a member of Gamma from 1974 to 1980, and joined Magnum photos in 1981. He wrote a book entitled, Iran Diary 1971-2002, which contains a critical interpretation of Iranian history, photographed and written as a private journal.

1979 Islamic Revolution and the Resurgence of Islam

Allah O Akbar is the book I did on Islam on the resurgence of Islam. I started in 1987 and it went onto 1993. …I could see that the wave of religious passion raised by the Iranian Revolution this wave was not going to stop at the borders of Iran; it was obvious. So after the revolution I wanted to start right away my work on the resurgence of Islam worldwide, but emotionally I wasn’t ready because you know Iran had drained me. It was a very violent revolution. I remember sometimes you know even having nightmares for three years after the revolution because it was always there. …So as a photographer you tend to put an emotional curtain between the violence scene and yourself, otherwise you cannot function. …and I went to 29 countries. So I covered what I saw were the problems of Islam.

Revolutionary Events

General Pakravan was the one who started the SAVAK, the secret police, but he was more of an intellectual than say a torturer, because SAVAK of course had a very bad reputation. He said, “You know this guy, Pakravan?” He was the best accused, because he said, “yes” to everything. “I said, ‘I accuse you of this.’” “He said, ‘Yes.’” “I accuse you of this.” “He said, ‘Yes.’” So he didn’t lose his time, and I didn’t lose my time, …And of course he was put on the firing line. …Why waste time you know with lawyers, prosecutors and defenders? You know the accused had the chance of express themselves, but it was very swift justice.

Islam and the Muslim World

So if there was one lesson I learned from my 7 and then 5, 12 years covering Islam is that you know the silent majority of Muslim are too silent. And now fortunately their voices are being raised intellectuals, you know artists questioning not only jihadists and Islamism, but also questioning their own religion, questioning Islam. I think it’s a good way of moving forward in the Muslim world.