Sara Medghalchi | Tehran, Iran

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Hello Sara, thanks a lot for your submission. I am very excited - you are the first photographer from the Middle East who submitted work! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Thank you for giving me the chance to have a voice and share my work. I am 29 and live in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. I have a BA in English Literature and MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. I have been an English teacher and teacher trainer for more than 10 years. I love learning new languages, travelling, reading and taking long walks. 

When did you become interested in photography as a mode of expression? 
I started Photography as a serious hobby about 4 years ago. I try to do different kinds of photography, but mainly I focus upon street photography. I believe photography is one of the purest ways of expressing myself.

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What fascinates you about photography?
Photography to me is opening conversations and raising questions. It’s a never ending challenge. As I shoot, I take a moment of silence and stay in that very moment. I chose photography to appreciate the present time, document life as it happens and make history. What I call my reality which is different from yours and everyone. That’s what’s so fascinating! One image and multiple interpretations. As Vivian Maier, one of my favorite photographers said , “We have to make room for other people. It's a wheel. You get on. You go to the end. And someone else has the same opportunity to go to the end. And so on. And somebody else takes their place.” 

Let’s talk about your submitted project “Stories of a Generation". Can you tell us something about the project and how did the idea came up?
I take photographs to tell a story. The story that has multiple voices. The ‘Stories of a Generation’ is a personal one documented. It’s the story of an abandoned house in an old region in East Azerbaijan Province, in northwestern Iran, where I am originally from. The house itself has witnessed many stories. Some happy endings and some not so!

I didn't know how attached I was to the house till I was about to detach. Fear of loss! It was then when I decided to walk into the house and take a closer look, explore and picture all the details so that I won’t ever forget. The house was the only proof that I had existed then. I have always been a fan of 'History’. My very own version of history.

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What was your creative process when you worked on the project?
Well, I had travelled to the city many times and had short visits. When I was sure I was going to work on the project I had to prepare myself and spent hours wandering in the house. There were places that were significant and I had to shoot them. Then I had to wait for the perfect illumination to happen. Once you have the idea you’re waiting for that very moment to appear and hope that you’re not too late. And then Click! A lot of unexpected things happened since the house was old. And this was the challenge and excitement about the project, being responsive to whatever happened.

 “Stories of a Generation" is a very personal project and a document of your memories , but also a fragment of our time we live in. What happened to the house now, and how do you feel about it?
That is so true. The house is destroyed and nothing is left. As I mentioned earlier I am a big fan of documenting my own version of what goes on around me. We can not deny the fact that there’s an end to everything and one day we all are left alone. These images are bitter sweet reminders that nothing can fill the emptiness of loneliness. That modern life is lonely. The houses are gone, the stories of many generations are gone. What is the meaning of life these days?

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The pictures are very well composed and have a very minimalistic cinematic look - in kind of a peaceful mood. How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
For these very specific series, I had thought about the composition beforehand, so I had to figure out a way to make the abstract ideas relate to one another. I think what is composed in the pictures is the result of the photographs I see, the movies I watch, the books I read, my imagination and some years of practice. 

Is there any photographer who has influenced you as a person or your work?
There are many photographers who I admire like Henri Cartier-BressonAnsel AdamsSteve McCcurryJames Nachtwey, Reza Deghati and Vivian Maier. I am also very impressed by Roger Ballen’s photography.

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Tell us a little bit about the photography scene in Iran. Are there any female photographers you could recommend?
I think as long as there is a camera and a person behind it, there’s an identity talking through a photograph. Like anywhere around the world there are great photographers in Iran who inspire the world and make a change. Nothing can stop a photographer. No rules and regulations and no limitations.

There are many outstanding female photographers. Here are a few names; Maryam Zandi, Gohar Dashti, Shadi Ghadirian, Tahmineh Monavi and Niewsha Tavakolian.

What are your next plans and projects?
To me photography is journey with no destination. I am learning everyday.

I have some ongoing projects that I am not sure if they will ever finish. I’m currently working on a project called ‘Life & Shadows’ through which I’m telling stories of common people who are left alone and shaded.

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Here you can find more of Sara's work:

Instagram: saramedghalchi
Facebook: saramedghalchi

Emily Garthwaite | London


Emily Garthwaite is a 24-year-old British photojournalist and street photographer with a focus on humanitarian and environmental stories. She recently co-directed her first documentary in Iraq on Arba’een, the world's largest annual pilgrimage - attracting over 25 million Shia Muslim pilgrims. In 2018, the Iraq series and documentary are being exhibited in London, France, Italy, and Iran.

Emily graduated with a Masters in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the University of Westminster in late 2016. Her photographs have been featured internationally including her image "Chained to Tradition" selected as a Finalist for Finalist for Wildlife Photographer of The Year in the Photojournalism category.

She is a Member of Street Photography International, a collective of four street photographers who formed with the aim to promote the best Street Photography from around the world. SPi is currently Instagram's fastest growing account for the genre with over 400,000 followers and reaching over 10 million people per month. Street Photography International launched The Street Awards and currently run international Street Photography workshops.


When and why did you become a photographer?

I picked up a camera at the age of 15 and had fun with it. At that point, it was about exploration and researching photographers and painters. I didn't push for a career on photojournalism until a couple of years ago.


You submitted incredible work shot in India. What encouraged you to start a project on India?

I have travelled to India three times over the past few years. The first was to scatter my grandmother’s ashes, during the second I travelled for six months on my own, and I spent my most recent trip with my partner.

India is a country that is, at times, incredibly challenging and I’ve always believed that it’s because of that I’ve continued to return. A Portrait of India is a long-term series that examines daily life and rituals across India. 

Walking the streets of a city alone with a camera is a meditation for me. Indian cities are paradoxical environments, allowing everyday scenes to become extraordinary. I always wait for eye contact with a passerby, sometimes it never happens, but the beauty of street life in cities is that the next photo is only moments away.

What is/was your most important project and why?

Most recently I visited Iraq with an Iranian documentary film crew. I was photographing Arba'een, the world's largest annual pilgrimage that attracts 25 million Shia Muslims a year. It encompassed everything I have worked towards over the past couple of years, and I was proud to have been selected as the main subject. I will be exhibiting the work next year and wish to open up a dialogue as to why there is a media blackout surrounding the pilgrimage.


What does photography means to you?
Photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet new people and create art from everyday life.