Between 1978 and 1980, Abbas captured images of the Iranian Revolution that covered violence on both sides. In the final film of our Through the Lens series, he reveals how he sees himself as “a historian of the present”.
“You have history, and you have the history of the present,” says the Iranian photographer Abbas in this film, the last in BBC Culture’s Through the Lens series marking the 70th anniversary of Magnum Photos. Between 1978 and 1980, he captured images of the Iranian Revolution that didn’t shy away from violence by the government or religious militants.
His photos record protestors outside the US Embassy in Tehran, a soldier threatening him with a grenade and a mullah pointing a gun from a car window. One particularly chilling image shows a lynch mob attacking a woman on the street. His friends told him not to show the picture because it revealed the dark side of the revolution, but he refused. “I said: ‘I’m sorry – it must be my country, my people, and my revolution, but I’m also a journalist, which means a historian of the present, so I have to show this picture now.’”
Abbas describes what happened next in this film, and explains how the revolution sent ripples across the world that are still felt today.
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