Inge Morath: Iran (1956)
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Interview with Inge Morath by Kurt Kaindl, Salzburg, 1992
I wanted to photograph the Silk Road, to follow Marco Polo’s traces to China. I thought it would be a good idea to start in Iran. So, I told Holiday Magazine that I would like to photograph Iran; that was in 1956. I was also very interested in the region, in old civilizations which are suddenly overbalanced by modern times. Iran was a country where they had started to build factories, but a lot was still medieval.
Robert Delpire came with me to Iran because he wanted to make a book. Later he left, and I finished the project on my own. It was crazy, because at that time it was very complicated for women to travel alone in the Middle East. I was always very considerate of how people live. In Iran, I wore the chador and long trousers with a gown, and paid I attention to customs. If you don’t respect what people do, you should not photograph them.
I traveled to Abadan. Delpire accompanied me there, and then I drove back alone with my Armenian driver. But sometimes even he was afraid. If nomads came, he stayed at a great distance and I went walking towards them, armed with Aspirin and sugar. At that time I also realized the advantage of a Polaroid and I gave them a picture. The nomads occasionally shot at people, killed them, but I always got along very well with them. It was amazing, but it was also fierce.
Finally, I traveled to Iraq. It was summer and there was a big heat. It was the wrong time for Iraq. Then I went to Syria and Jordan. At that time there were very few hotels. Occasionally, I slept in ruins, which was great but also a little dangerous. But I think I trusted in God. I came finally back. I was one of the few at that time who were able to travel any place I wanted.
Read the Preface by John Jacob