The Unseen Tehran

The Unseen Tehran



What do you expect a city to be like? What you see is what you get? Are your thoughts true?

The brightness of the lights and colours of this photo could have grabbed your attention. Or the symmetry may have caught your eyes. The combination is showing you an attractive city landscape. The Unseen Tehran

Looking at ‘Evening Magic’ you might think you see a beautiful city sparkling in lights. You might think you see the Iranian capital Tehran. Part of your assumption is true. Indeed, you see Tehran. But what you see is only its surface. The polished cover that protects the daily life from the eye. The Unseen Tehran. 


You see the city of Tehran in the evening with the magic of the unseen.



The view


‘Evening Magic’ is made right after sunset on one of Tehran’s highest points. Like every self-respected city, Tehran has a landmark representing the town. Tehran has the Milad tower like Paris has the Eiffel Tower and New York the Statue of Liberty. A multifunctional tower with a wide view overlooking Tehran. And while the building itself is not as characteristic as the Eifel Tower or the Statue of Liberty it does give the city a mark.


‘Evening Magic’ is made the moment after sunset and right before darkness falls in. There was a strong blue colour in the light at the time of making the photo. A short moment that lifts up the grey of the concrete.

The lights give a little glimpse of the daily life of this part of town. At this time of the day rush hour has transformed the traffic to the worst condition possible. Working people will come home. Shopping will be done, meals will be prepared and people will spend their nights eating, drinking, talking or whatever they need to do. Life on one of the busiest moments of the day is happening at the moment the photo is taken.



The unseen


It’s the unseen that brings the magic to this photo. The density of this neighbourhood reveals there’s a lot happening in this part of town. By looking at ‘Evening Magic’ you see there’s a life going on but it’s hidden for the eye. On the moment, the houses and lights give only a little glimpse of daily life. Behind the surface of lights and concrete, people could have been studying, arguing, having a family dinner, making love, praying, cleaning, partying or being drunk, whatever. The photo shows that life is happening, while it will never show how life is happening. The surface of concrete lifted up by the lights, protects the inside.


The magic of ‘Evening Magic’ is that you might think you see a city, but what you see is the shelter covering the real life of people.


The unseen part of this photo shows that the presentation has nothing to say about the inside. In other words, what you see is not what you get. The polished cover is part of the presentation. In facts, it’s the image that is made to represent the city. The magic is the difference between what the outside of Tehran looks like with its massive grey concrete jungle, Islamic references and Iranian heroism. And what the inside life of the almost 9 million inhabitants that are living their daily life with all the joys and sorrows that life brings might look like.



The making of


The story of ‘Evening Magic’ began on a morning in May 2016. On one of my first days ever in Tehran. On that morning I found myself on the view platform of Tehran’s highest tower. A massive city of concrete reached every corner of my eyes. Nothing magical, nothing glamourous. Honestly, grey blocks under a brown blanket of smog is probably the best description I can give. The only spectacular about the view was the rise of the mountains in the north, covered with snow on the top and fancy buildings at the start.


As unglamorous the city was at that morning in May, it set the tone for the planning and thinking for a more spectacular version. A version that would do justice to the spirit of the Iranian people as I had experienced it. And so, the planning started to take photos at the beginning of the night. On a clear day, without any smog.


It might sound simple, being on a spot on the right time, but it wasn’t. Actually, it was far from simple. In fact, it took me longer than expected to find a day that was clear enough. Meaning; without an overload of clouds or smog. In special, the smog was the deal-breaker for many days in a row.


On a November day, I had the moment I was hoping for. Finally, after days of waiting in Tehran and just one day before leaving the country. As I thought I had everything planned, getting to the place was the only missing part. However, the unapologetic traffic jams of Tehran, unavailable taxis and language barrier were the last challenges to deal with. Perseverance, patience and luck have brought me finally to the place I wanted to be. On the platform, overlooking the city, before the start of the night, on a clear day.


And so ‘Evening Magic’ was born.



Last note


‘Evening Magic’ still feels to me like a baby that came to life after a lot of effort and became better in the following years. I wish people -wherever they live- will be attracted by the magic of the lights and colours. And will imagen with an open mind how the people of Tehran live underneath the shell that’s visible from the outside. Despite any stereotypes or political viewpoints. The Unseen Tehran. The magic of the evening: ‘Evening Magic’.


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