This is a series of portraits of Iranian fathers and daughters in different social classes in Tehran and other cities. The photos were made in their home environments.

I asked each of the young women to give a short statement about their fathers; they can be read in the captions.

—Nafise Motlaq


From the first time we saw this series, we were fascinated by the images and by Nafise Motlaq’s ability to reach across different levels of Iranian society. LensCulture Assistant Editor Alexander Strecker interviewed the photographer, and here is an edited version of their exchange:

I’m Nafise Motlaq, a self-taught photographer from Iran. Originally, I wanted to become a journalist so I found a small job in one of the pioneering newspapers. Very soon, I bought a camera to take pictures to accompany my stories. Surprisingly, the editors showed more interest in my photographs than in my writing!

For the past 11 years, I’ve been living in Malaysia, working as a university lecturer. During my time away from home, I noticed how often people talk about Iran without having a real picture of the country in their minds. This inspires my work on Iran, sparking my desire to show a reality that many people don’t get to see.

I was driven to begin “Fathers and Daughters” after my father nearly passed away. His illness and then eventual recovery brought us much closer. When I visited Iran in 2014, after seven years away from the country, the idea sprang to mind.

From my experiences in photojournalism, I have learned how to quickly build trust with my subjects. So, the biggest challenge in “Fathers and Daughters” was simply finding enough different families who were willing to be photographed. For example, finding a member of the clergy was challenging. After combing through Tehran’s most religious neighborhoods, I finally met a clergyman who was interested in photography. He liked my project so much, he helped get me access to the father who leads off the series.

I strongly believe story-telling is important in photography. Photo-stories not only describe what’s in front of the camera but also who is behind it. The editing of a series of images reveals the photographer’s perspective and his or her views about the issue. For example, when I’m in Malaysia, I find it very easy to make street photographs—quick, slightly distant work, that’s done in public. But it is only in Iran where I can reach deeper levels of communication with my subjects. My familiarity with Iranians lets me know how to deal with them and allows me capture their real moments.

—Nafise Motlaq, as told to Alexander Strecker

Exhibition of all 50 LensCulture Emerging Talents: Barcelona, October 13-31

Nafise Motlaq’s work, along with photographs from ALL the LensCulture Emerging Talents was shown in an exhibition at the Galeria Valid Foto in Barcelona.

The winners were also featured at photo festival screenings in Dublin, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Korea, Tokyo and Amsterdam in 2014.