Abbas and the Revolution is an attempt to showcase some of the photographs of one of the most important photographers of our time about one of the most important events of the 20th century. Having two “importants” in the first sentence of this introduction shows that we are quite aware of our monumental task. We know that we can never do justice to Abbas’s career as a photographer, and that despite our best efforts we may be able to tell only a small part of the story of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
The duty of a photojournalist, according to many, is to remain detached in a moment of crisis, to compartmentalize scenes of violence and war from the goings on of everyday life. As suggested by Italian journalist Mario Calabresi in his extraordinary book
For almost 45 years I have roamed the world, in search of images of upheaval; initially political and social, then later, religious. Retrospectives are best done when the photographer is no longer around - there will be no surprises then. Or so I thought until the National Museum of Singapore suggested I have one. It is now being shown in the Stathaus of Ulm, Germany. As I am still roaming the world, let’s just consider this retrospective, (with some humility - who knows how many more years I shall roam?)
For three years, the Magnum photographer Abbas and Melisa Teo have journeyed through the spiritual worlds of Buddhism, Shamanism and Hinduism, photographing the same subjects but with contrasting perspectives and styles.
From Magnum Photos, Abbas portfolio from Afghanistan
Today in Afghanistan, girls go to school and to the university; the burqah is not compulsory for women who can walk the streets unaccompanied; they are not executed in public for adultery; men are not whipped for not sporting a fist-long beard. The influx of UN and NGO’s money have brought a certain prosperity to the cities which are patrolled by national as well as NATO forces. Presidential and parliamentary elections have taken place. But democracy is not an off-the-shelf commodity which can be purchased in a supermarket and applied to a country with centuries of feudal traditions. Democracy works better when preceded by a secular tradition..