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Photographer Bahman Jalali, 1944-2010

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

Bahman-Jalali-04-1976-small-iUstad Bahman Jalali was an internationally acclaimed photographer and renowned artist.  He had a gentle manner that touched all of those that came to know him, he was good hearted, observant, a private and simple man, but an expert in his field.

He was liked and respected as a teacher and photographer by his colleagues, contemporaries and by his many students and without a doubt has influenced many young photographers deeply.

He was known as a war photographer and covered the Iranian Revolution, and published two books Khorramshahr and Days of Blood, Days of Fire.  He was also involved in making documentaries but he is mostly known for the time and devotion that he bestowed on his students and as a real good ustad (teacher) to photographers, photojournalists and his students at the universities that he has taught for many years. He was easily the most popular professor as many students desperately wished to have him as their tutor.

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He had collected a large collection of glass negatives from Golestan Palace, and published these in a very interesting book of his, ‘Visible Treasure’.   He was curator of Iran’s first photography museum and he exhibited internationally – currently he was participating in an exhibition in Milwaukee.   In 2007 he was honoured by the Fundacio AntoniTapies in Barcelona by a retrospective exhibition.

I worked with Bahman Jalali during the three years of the Kaveh Golestan Photojournalism Awards for which he was head of the jury as well as a member of the steering committee.  I came to know his gentle yet interesting sense of humour during our many committee meetings and later during less formal dinners and time we all spent together along with our mutual good friend Mrs Golestan.  I always found him calm and serene – he spoke his mind, never insisted but let the logic of his point reveal itself.

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With his wife, my good friend the photographer Rana Javadi, he lived in a beautiful house in the centre of Tehran where we all went to pay our respects this afternoon.  From what I saw today, the pain and sorrow of his students was overwhelming, one of them said to Rana, “I do not know if we are to express our condolences to you or you to us”  – this made everybody there watery eyed as this young man let out his emotion and cried his heart out along with all of us present.

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Bahman had arrived back in Iran from Germany late last night, saying that he wanted to be under his own lahaf (blanket). On Friday morning he did not feel well and so they went to the Tehran Clinic, where everything seemed under control until suddenly at about 3 in the afternoon, he kissed his wife’s hand and smiled and thanked her and a few minutes later left this world for the next, as calmly and quietly as he was famous for.

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He will never be forgotten by all those who loved and respected him and I am sure that he will be looking after loved ones and his students from high above.

His funeral will take place on Sunday morning, 17th January, commencing at Artists Forum and he will be buried in the Artists plot at Beheshte Zahra.

Please join me sending his soul a prayer and we hope that his loved ones and Iranian photography will be able to bear this loss.  We are all surrounded by our memories of him.

May he rest in peace.

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