Growing up in Maplewood, NJ, people are privy to a fortunate and tolerant community. The color of skin and sexual preference of each individual has rarely been cause for concern in the town. But one instance, 9/11, threw all of that out the window. As an Iranian-American, Bijan Roganchi had been treated as an American first nearly every day prior. But in high school on that fateful day, he experienced prejudice for being part of a culture he only partially knew.
Ten years later, Roghanchi ventured into Iran for the very first time.
On September 10th, 2011 the only thing I could think about was how to come up with $10,000 to pay the Iranian conscription board and avoid 21 months of military service. It was 91 days since I landed in Tehran which meant I wouldn’t be allowed to leave without serving or paying. I could have left earlier, but I needed more time.
In June 2011, I moved to Iran to spend a year understanding the place where my father was born and raised, and to which I had never been. I went in blind, not speaking Farsi, to meet my family, to ask what it meant for me to be Iranian. My tools were a camera, dozens of journals and a tape recorder.
Over the next two and a half years I photographed my way through Iran. It took a year to pay off the military, teaching English for $3.40 an hour. I made friends, fell in and out of love and joined the ranks of Tehran’s wandering souls. I traveled throughout the country, road tripping with friends through Iranian Kurdistan, Azerbaijan and the Turkmen Sahra. I hitchhiked across the central Iranian desert from Isfahan to the Afghan border near Tabas and ferried between the islands of the Persian Gulf.
A journey of over 800 days and over 20,000 photographs was distilled down to 81 pictures in a single book. Becoming Iranian’s goal is to give vision to an oft-misunderstood culture while simultaneously exploring Roghanchi’s roots.
Shirin Gallery NY will be hosting the book’s launch tomorrow, Thursday October 6th for a reception, 6 to 8 pm. Works from the book will be available for viewing until October 15th.
For More Information: Bijan Roghanchi