My parents have only a few photos of themselves from before the Islamic Revolution in Iran. My obsession with these photos, and with the photos we do not have, led to this project: It’s Hard to Kill.
Iran's revolution began with a popular democratic movement and ended with the establishment of an Islamic state. Before the Iranian Revolution, opposition groups tended to fall into three major categories: constitutionalist, (including National Front), Marxist, and Islamist. All three opposition parties participated in the 1979 Revolution, but the Islamist majority began to slander and condemn the other parties; eventually they began to arrest, force into exile, and execute members of the opposition.
My father had been a member in the National Front party that disbanded several years after the revolution. As could be expected anywhere, the members of the party occasionally took photos of their meetings, as well as social events. Images made as proof of social status and rank became documents to be used against them, in the space of a few years.
Thirty years ago, a few years after the Islamic revolution in Iran, my father burned a number of photos that referenced his membership in that specific political party. My father, and others, burned these photos due to the immediate risk of arrest. The act of disappearing photos was highly emotional, even if not rational in our Age of Mechanical Reproduction; the fear and anxiety that the society experienced at that time was acute.
I have explored other people’s family archives to create the work, to imagine the moments when my father burnt the photos. I was fascinated by this fearful ritual meant to protect an individual, and what it means to lose photographic evidence of a family’s history. I am making my work based on this true story that has happened over and over again, for different people from different nations, often after social revolutions.
The halo around some of the individuals in the photos, caused by burning, brings into attention a few important questions about memory, history, and their representations: How does self-censorship affect our memory and personal history? Is the halo a sign of loss of history or a sign of bringing back the aura to the photographs? Does it omit the individual from history, or add non-representational characteristics to an individual’s presence?
I rebuilt these memories, although they are not directly mine. I heard them, and I live their consequences. I explore the idea of prosthetic memory, accessing the memories of my father through this burning of old family photographs.