Organised by the Museum für Islamische Kunst in collaboration with the National Archives of Iran, Tehran, the exhibition ‘Iran. Moving into Modernity’ uses photographs, artworks and historical postcards to depict a country in balance between tradition and innovation while crafting the concept of modernity in its own terms.
During the nineteenth century Iran played a key role in the complex diplomatic and military scenario of Central Asia and underwent at the same time rapid socio-cultural changes. Between 1785 and 1925 the country was ruled by the Qajar dynasty, a royal family descending from a warrior tribe of Turkic origin. During their reign the Qajar Shahs represented themselves as both rightful heirs of the ancient history of Iran and modernising reformers. In this process the new technology of photography played a significant role. Photographic cameras arrived in Iran in the early 1840s and were firstly used to create a unique image of power and modernity within and outside the state borders of Qajar Iran.
Embraced by the Shahs, photography quickly became the favourite medium for the political propaganda of the royal dynasty. It was also widely employed to visually map the territories under Qajar rule with the court launching several photographic missions to document the historical past of Iran as well as its diverse population. Photography captured changes in nineteenth-century Iranian society such as city architecture, clothing, and lifestyle. By the end of the nineteenth century photography turned into a fashionable product and a status-symbol for Iranian urban elites and the bourgeoisie. Between 1905 and 1911 the political movement known as Iranian Constitutional Revolution used photographs and postcards with short texts to support its requests for governmental reforms and to promote its leaders.
The exhibition shows official images and outdoor scenes of the royal court, pictures of political leaders, private portraits of the urban bourgeoisie. Together with historical photos from the National Archives of Iran, the exhibition curated artworks and historical postcards from a German private collection.