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Kaveh Golestan 1950-2003: Photographer in Iran Opened at Kunsthal Rotterdam
Masked militiaman, Khuzestan, Iran, 1980. Photo: Kaveh Golestan.

ROTTERDAM.- Kunsthal Rotterdam, in collaboration with the Prince Claus Fund, presents a selection of probing black-and-white photographs from the extensive archives of Kaveh Golestan (1950-2003). Around the world, people have come to know Iran through Golestan’s photos. In international newspapers and magazines his images have kept us informed about the revolution in Iran and the return to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the war between Iran and Iraq and the Kurdish liberation struggle. But in spite of political upheaval, oppression and censure, Golestan continued to live in his country of birth.

Golestan was an eyewitness to many important political events. During the Iranian Revolution (1978-80) he was right there on the street in the middle of protesting crowds: burning cars, the Shah’s army and demonstrators throwing stones were just a few metres away. The unrest and anger are palpable; you can almost hear the noise. Just as you can almost feel the grief of the mourning women bending over the victims. He reported on the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and the Kurdish liberation struggle through photographs that were often taken while the fighting was going on or shortly after. A woman holding a machine gun stands on top of a tank, an older man lost in thought leans on his gun and smokes a cigarette. Golestan’s pictures show the recent history of a remarkable and complex country.

In the middle of political upheaval, Golestan made portraits of social groups oppressed by the regime, such as prostitutes, labourers and mentally handicapped children. They are close by and look directly into his lens. They are proud, ashamed, worried or curious. In his series of portraits of labourers he zooms in significantly on their hands and clothes. In Golestan’s photos nothing is left out. He brings the truth of his country out into the open and his camera is without fear. In 2003 this costs him his life when he steps onto a landmine.

Kaveh Golestan
In 1979 Golestan was awarded the Robert Capa Gold Medal, but due to Iran’s political climate he was not able to receive it personally until thirteen years later. Once he was honoured with this award, bearing the name of the world’s most famous war photographer, Golestan was sometimes referred to as the Iranian Robert Capa. Golestan’s photographs were widely published in international newspapers and periodicals such as Time magazine.

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