Mr. Future President: This
As the hawkish debate on the
"Iran Question" continues to possess Washington, most Americans' exposure to the
country is limited to photos of a bespectacled, bearded Supreme Leader and an
unshaven, uncouth firebrand of a President. But one American, Tom Loughlin, is adamant that the next President of American
knows that Iran
is a vibrant society of millions of people.
Loughlin, an American-born
lawyer-turned-photographer, has visited Iran three times to capture Iranian
life for his installation, "Pictures of you: Images of Iran." Photos
of sepia- eyed young women, downy-haired scholars, and dimpled-cheeked
adolescents are part of Loughlin's innovative effort
to humanize "the other," the Iranian people.
This week, Loughlin is taking his exhibit to the Democratic National
Convention in Denver
in hopes that presidental contender Barack Obama makes eye contact
with a Iranian day laborer with a shy smile, a Iranian
girl wistfully playing with her silk scarf, and Iranian professor with gentle
eyes and a iridescently white beard. "I want all Americans to have a
chance to come face-to-face with their Iranian counterparts, and I want to
document Americans' responses to the encounter," says Loughlin
whose steel-blue eyes glisten with purpose. Loughlin's
dynamic exhibit consists of an interactive 3-D still movie of photographs with sound and light that is displayed in a
26-foot-high octagonal dome, a dome which symbolizes openness and warmth in
the exhibit should illicit a visceral response from Americans, including Barack Obama, and make them
grapple with their preconceptions.
"Many Americans have strong
feelings and intuitions about Iran,"
Loughlin notes, "and many of
their ideas have developed in an environment tainted by ignorance and suspicion
. . . I hope that the show will ultimately transcend the issue of
Iranian/American relations. It will illustrate how Americans exercise their
freedoms and privileges - including the privilege to remain uninformed about
other nations and cultures without suffering any significant consequences.
We're all made of the same flesh," he continues, "and that somehow
got lost. I want this show to make that point viscerally through the humanity
of Iranian citizens and the beauty of the Persian culture.
The show is a mirror."
The name of the exhibition, "Pictures of You," comes from a poem by Rumi:
If my head holds one thought
wise and clear, it's you.
Poor as I am, what I hold
dear is you.
No matter how I see myself,
Anything I am entirely is
Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi)
Loughlin hopes that Americans will
confront their fear of "the other" and the photos of ordinary
Iranians will encourage them to look more openly at other nations and cultures.
And, ultimately, Loughlin hopes his exhibit will
dissuade warmongering by American policymakers.
presidential nominee Barack Obama
is far less of a saber-rattler than John McCain, Obama
has suggested that the United States
one day might have to launch surgical missile strikes into Iran and Pakistan to keep extremists from
getting control of nuclear bombs. The Bush Administration's flawed reliance on
violence has no place at the Democratic National Convention and Americans must
demand to know how presidential candidates, especially ones who allegedly
represent "hope" and "change," will promote a better future
for both Americans and Iranians. Loughlin is
confident that recognizing the extraordinary commonality of the human
experience is the first step in a new direction for a new America.
Loughlin's work can be viewed at http://www.picturesofyouiran.com
Guzder is a freelance journalist
in New York City and dual-degree graduate of Columbia University's
School of Journalism
and School of International and Public Affairs. Please
feel free to email her at email@example.com