After Censorship (Praise for Iranian Living Room)

Freedom of Speech, Photo Studio

One of the few teachings that remains stuck in my mind from an advertising class at university is that conservative Muslim countries were – and are still today – a huge market for luxury lingerie. It was 2002, one year into the Afghanistan war, and news channels suddenly obsessed by the Muslim way of life were churning out images of women covered in burqas. The idea that underneath those same veils those same women could be wearing La Perla bras and Dolce&Gabbana stockings struck me as a revelation.

I have a similar feeling when I open Iranian Living Room, a book that I’ve witnessed being born and raised over the past year and which was recently published by Fabrica (also the publisher of COLORS). Iranian Living Room is a collection of 15 photo reportages, shot by 15 Iranian photographers all under the age of 25, in 15 different homes, under the supervision of Enrico Bossan, Fabrica’s photography director.

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There is a young couple brushing their teeth together. There are girls smoking and dancing. There is a man stroking his dog and people checking Facebook on their laptops. Everything seems so normal and yet enticing, probably because, as the book explains, in Iran, unmarried couples cannot live together, drinking alcohol is forbidden, taking animals around is against the law and Facebook is blocked. Like the lingerie of my advertising course, even the most banal things become magnets once they are hidden, censored, or prohibited.

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Oddly enough, the same rule applies to the book itself. After putting Iranian Living Room up for sale on its online shop, Fabrica realized that people trying to buy the book could not finish their transactions. Further investigation revealed that Paypal was blocking sales because the book's title contained the word “Iranian”, in accordance with  United States trade sanctions on Iran. Before Paypal could fix the problem, word had spread on social networks, blogs and news websites (New York Times, Huffington Post, CNN among others,) turning it into a small editorial case and a good story for COLORS, which has often talked about censorship (here, here and here for example), no matter who was censoring and who was being censored.

 

Cosimo Bizzarri

Executive Editor - COLORS Magazine