In Iran, everything is banned but everything is possible, says Jeremy Suyker, repeating a sentiment he heard during his time there. The French photographer had just arrived in Tehran when he met the drama students who would introduce him to the country’s vibrant art scene – the main character of his series “The Persian Factory.” Everything is banned, because men and women can’t touch each other on stage, because female singers aren’t allowed to be solo artists, because all plays need to be approved by the Ministry of Culture… But everything is possible because censorship is never insurmountable. During several months, Suyker documented the creativity triggered by restriction. He spent time with those who have no choice but to perform their craft underground, hiding from the authorities. But he was especially fascinated by the resilience and wits of artists who work within the confines of censorship, and for who navigating these restrictions, he says, has become an art form in itself. He joined R&K from Paris.
Roads & Kingdoms: When did you first go to Iran?
Jeremy Suyker: In April 2013. I had wanted to go for a while. I was fascinated both by the Persian history and by contemporary culture. The real trigger was one book, called Walk On My Eyes, written by the Swiss journalist Serge Michel and with photos by Paolo Woods. It recounts their experience in Iran from 2002 to 2009, and what was fascinating is that they really analyzed the paradoxes of a society that we, as Westerners, don’t know well at all. I thought the book was very successful in showing the complexities of Iranian society. Two months after reading it, I left for Iran. It wasn’t for an assignment or anything, I just took a flight to Istanbul and from there I took a train to Tehran. The journey lasted three days. It was nice to take my time and not have the shock of doing Paris-Tehran. Once I arrived in this huge city, I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t speak Farsi, so I was very rapidly lost. I randomly met theater students on the first day as I was walking around, and they invited me into their lives.