top of page

Rock the Casbah: Basement Bands in Tehran / mirzOyan

November 2011


Exhibit opening, screening, & talk

Tuesday November 29, 2011, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Sacha Lecca, senior photo editor Rolling Stone

In February, 2010, I went to Tehran to look at the 31st anniversary of the Revolution. When I found rock musicians practicing in sound- proof basements, I found people waiting for a second Revolution. Playing rock music in Iran is a risky business. The penalty for getting caught ranges from fines to flogging to jail. Over the course of ten days of trying to get musicians to trust me, I wound up photographing seven bands in two recording studios. By the end of my stay I had also collected images of the statecraft being cooked up on TV that week, and of ordinary citizens going about their lives. It’s old form to shoot TV, but I wanted to try to mix it with my rock bands, to show the celebration of the Revolution in color: beautiful—but artificial. I shot the rock bands in an opposite way. No TV pixels, all in black and white. They are more real, and doing something that nobody on TV would ever talk about. They are really underground, and the light is like hope, but also like torture, when strong light is shone on eyes.


For the photos I took of daily life, I wanted to present a basic picture of what it looks like in Tehran. I focused on the color green because it’s the color of Iran’s opposition and the young generation.


mirzOyan is an Armenian photographer. Primarily, his work is concerned with the culture and post-conflict societies of countries in the Caucusus. In 2010, he won Magnum Foundation’s Caucusus Award and a scholarship to the NYU/Magnum Human Rights Program. In 2010, Magnum Foundation's Emergency Fund awarded him a grant. His long-term projects focus on the Middle East, the Caucusus, the United States, and Belarus.


All photos © mirzOyan.

bottom of page