New York Photo Review
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Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

Cultural Contrasts
Paolo Woods
Paolo Woods, Persian Carpet

Iran is full of surprises and they aren’t restricted to guessing what its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will say or do next. Photojournalist Paolo Woods’ eye-opening exhibition about Iran reveals this society’s complexity and humanity in ways you could never imagine.

Woods began this project in 2005 after Ahmadinejad was elected president in an effort to close the gap between the Iran that Woods knew and the one stereotypical extremists had fostered on the West since the Islamic revolution. The result is an exhibition of 14 color images that offers fascinating and revealing aspects of Iranian culture and society. Woods says, “I am particularly drawn to the theatricality and duality of Iranian society: the profound religiousness of the Iranians in spite of the regime’s cynical use of religion; the constant clash between modernity and tradition, often within the same person.”

 by unidentified photographer.
Paolo Woods, Laughing School

Some of the photographs offer an intimate look at Iranian life. Wood’s photo of a 33-year old woman in Western clothes standing next to her mother in traditional Arab garb shows the contrast between old and new. Or a portrait of Omidreza, a 20 year-old who’s a member of Basij, Iran’s volunteer army. His division enforces the Islamic dress code for women and checks up on unmarried couples. Even more revealing is a portrait of Shieda, an attractive 37 year-old woman dressed in a ski outfit at a lodge north of Tehran where the dress code allows the ski jacket’s hood to replace the veil. And who could ever guess there could be “The Tehran Laughing School”; a classroom of young adults practicing how to laugh as a way to build up their self-confidence? Cost: $200 a year.

There are pictures of filmmakers, Persian carpet merchants, a female dentist, but only one photograph about the Iranian reform movement that took to the streets.

From my perspective, when I think of Iran these days, I usually picture its president ranting in front of the UN, further distancing Iran from the West. Wood’s photos put another face on the country and that can’t hurt.

Paolo Woods



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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery