New topographies represent tastelessness of history

 New topographies represent tastelessness of history

Date : Thursday, May 3, 2018


Karim Mottaghi a great artist from tabriz has  published his Photo book called "BIABAN" recently. this is a foreword about this book and Karim's project.

As Rosalind Kraus expresses ideas about classification and people's tendency to immediately categorize photographs based on their predominant content, the present book deals with natural landscape photographs which are in close connection with the photographer's place of residence. However, these landscapes contrary to the conventional ones are not merely pure, unsullied depiction of nature. They consist of natural scenes which have been under severe threat of being spoiled by man's interventions. Such disturbance has become a perpetual characteristic of landscapes.

Contrary to the past that Edward Burtynsky thought of railway tracks as modern man's nail scratches on the pure body of mountains, now man's passion to dominate nature has entirely changed the identity of landscapes. Further identity of scenery warns of rough behavior and attitudes towards natural environments.

In these new topographies, metaphor of black tone as mundane reality suggests symbolic aspect of Mottaghi' s photographs. Black is absence of light that invites white color so that together they can clearly depict an image. Black is also rooted in man's fear of universe, explains man's terror and incompatibility with the environment and shows his lack of knowledge about his own environment. In the decayed black and white nature which is darkly destined to changes, lake Urmia as the distinctive identity of a great habitat has undergone a great deal of inconstancy and has been deeply silenced. Series of photographs in this chapter are neither exotic like national geography photos nor fascinating like classical landscapes. Having a unique visual quality, the stated photos suggest prevailing viewpoint of the photographer through the whole series and express innate transformation of things and places, a transformation which in fact portrays our living experience in a land where history has made the most tasteless changes. Such a doomed destiny is well represented in the next chapter through mostly colored pictures of the bodies of swan shaped boats. By capturing close up portraits of the swan Mottaghi attempted to imply imminent death of the lake and metamorphosis of its dignity. In this series that contains the least edited images, color as a feature that communicates the current reality, is strongly noticed in some of the works especially those depicting close up of the swan's head instead of the whole boat. Thus the photographer reinforces swan's character and its symbolic function.

Despite distinguished indexical context in Mottaghi 's photography which is far from fantasizing, rich esthetics and formalism of his works in the first series of the book reveals a remarkable contradiction due to focusing on deficiencies in nature. Eventually he portrays a modern abstraction so as to emphatically indicate modern man's life style and attitudes towards landscapes. Absence of modern man in most of his works emphasizes irresponsible behavior towards nature.

Not containing soul of adventure, these photos provoke a great shock which Roland Barthes described as the third type of photographic surprise" persistence". Mottaghi's fidelity to a particular subject and region through decades suggests his persistence. To this it must be added that staying away from prevalent artificiality and trickery in today's black and white photography has become a prominent feature of his photography. His photos are entirely calm and uncompetitive. Free from any description written to explain them they may attract attentions. | Kiarang Alaei

Photo: Karim Mottaghi
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