By Kiarang Alaei
Life in Frames
A Collection of 10 years Photography
An expatriate will be accessible only when He compromises with his far land, Not by rejecting it (1).
The photos of this gallery invite the mind to dynamism, and in some places, they become a representative of our culture’s symbols. The photos are modern and contemporary, they smell sophistication, are embellished with software ornaments, and all these mean that these photos are not factual and routine phenomena, but the photographer is seeking to represent another reality: A mind-forged reality, not the one currently in our daily life. We can say that these photos, with such layout and visual ornamentation, are mediators between the photographer’s inner and external worlds, and research into them reveals only a little adjustment between these two worlds.
The photos try to deal with social issues in the form of conceptual symbols (and not abstract ones), the issues that have caused their young photographer’s concerns.
Reza Milani’s photos are warning and terse. With the least amount of elements and their special mise-en-scene, they drag us to a Lacanian “moving touch” (2).
Many of these photos can be simply categorized in the vast realm of Minimalism (3). As in this school, the least negative surroundings are used as a part of the work’s atmosphere to produce the ultimate meaning, and abstract subjects are connected to nature with a sincere cohesion, in these photos too, borrowing from the wild and untouched nature (deserts, plains, seas: are symbols of man’s research into his environment) is seen as well. Nature is used as a complementary meaning in Milani’s photos, and so results in a connection between the characters and their backgrounds, but they are more concerned with a school that was so popular in the 1930s which sought to compare pristine nature with “live and organic bodies” (4), rather than Naturalism itself. Therefore, the accumulation of all these characteristics in Milani’s photos has changed them into a post-modern virtu.
If we consider the photos as the photographer’s reaction to what happens in the shabby surroundings of his life, then we should say that Reza Milani’s characters are unsuccessful searchers of their Utopias. Their misery is revealed more when we (as observers) see most of them back to the cam-era: They look at the Utopia that is nothing except a mere mirage and sweet dream. These characters are typically the ones that portray a kind of metamorphosis on the stage.
They are either void of any passivity or are beating uselessly on their frustration drums. Reza Milani’s characters’ world is a world of lost yearnings and wistfulness: White gooses that fly in the dark sky of a woman’s face, and nothing can be seen in the background except this woman’s wistful look at the camera, a car that carries the burden of life to an anonymous destiny, a deserted recluse in a desert that has nothing left except a flowery cover which is his only anchor and dream, a kind of dream that has been born in an improbable distance from the reality, a native man’s suspense that’s engulfed in a lagoon full of migrating birds without any settlement, an old shepherd on an imaginary roof who is engulfed with meaninglessness like the lonely chimney, though the long shadows in this photo reflect something of life’s sacredness and the divinity. Even in the photo that the photographer presents childhood and death as two sources of life, the same adversity is seen: A hasty escape from the fears and hallucinations of the earthly world toward childhood un- knowns, playing requiem not for the dead but the photos as the vestigial memories of people’s lives are subtle embodiments of the photographer’s world.
Therefore, the photos become intricate metaphors for today’s man’s loneliness and perhaps “contrary to the purpose of a gallery photographer, not their artistic aspect but their meaning becomes outstanding” (5).
1 / Roland Barthes: camera lucida 2/ Jacques Lacan
4/ Edward Weston
5/ Roland Barthes: l’obvie et L’obtus
“The Fifth Story” November 2015
“Childhood Sleep;” November 2013
“Torkaman Wedding;” November 2011
“Endless Bitterness;” November 2010
Cafe Mania Art Gallery, Tehran, Iran “NOTION;“
Whistling Woods International Institute of Film; Mumbai, India
“Let Me Talk;” A Documentary Short Film on HIV April-June 2011
• Among the 10- top shortlisted in Travel Photography Category; Sony World Photography Organization; London, 2011
• Honorable Mention Winner of Px3: Prix De La Photography; Paris, 2010
• Winner of the First Prize of the 6 International Student Films and Photos 2010
• Awarded The Best Digital Photography of the Year by IBDA’ A AWARDS; Dubai, 2009”
An Old Tree
A Collection of Short Stories and Photography
By Mohsen Bayramnezhad
Reza Milani’s photos’ viewers will face images that in- tend to tell a story. They cannot tell a specific story considering their essence, and each observer will hear his/ her own particular and mind-forged story, but depending on the cul- tural and social background of the viewer the photos’ dramatic feeling and sense would be the same for all of the viewers. Despite being closely placed on the wall, these 14 frames do not seem to be particularly related to each other especially when one considers the technical meaning of the word “col- lection”. But if we think of the geographical background of their conception and the time of their representation, we will be unconsciously involved in a collection that intends to show the contemporary life of an Iranian using visual information. Emile Zola, the influential 19th century French author, has told of the applicability of photography that “nobody can say they have seen something, unless they see its photo.” This famous sentence that refers to the documentary essence of photog- raphy may seem paradoxical considering this collection; but Reza Milani, as a successful and purposeful photographer and seemingly in confirmation of this wonderful applicability, has used photography well as a means to represent his in-
tended stories; decorated photos with all the techniques used “after the photography itself” have created a powerful media to tell Reza’s story. In this special media names and biases haven’t been influential, and the work itself is highly valuable; these are in my view not photos or photography, but special visual stories. The idea of the photos in this collection has been taken from the life in contemporary Iran, and is the nar- rative of an Iranian young man. In this collection of com- pounded images the argument of “art for art’s sake” has not been the artist’s focus. The symbols used by him have in- creased the sentimental meaning of the photos, and so open a new window to the observers of the same culture.
Knowledge about contemporary Iranian life is a must to be in line with these visual stories’ narrator. ! The detached Eve and Adam (photo no 3): it talks of their sadness of keep away from each other. After many years they know “the earth” as their home; they have spent a time together on the earth, and now whatever that has caused their separation has happened ac- cording to their own will, but when one thinks of the geo- graphical background of the image’s formation this Eve and Adam are strangers for each other on “this earth”, though they are beside each other, and the thing that hascaused their separation has been nothing more than the weird distance between them. ! A packed family who is leaving to an un- known destiny (photo no 5): they are photographed at the moment they are passing by the lone “goodbye tree”; it seems as if the photo is portraying the bitter dream of an Iran- ian. A lone tree which has always been celestial, and has al- ways raised terrestrial man’s wonder and praise has been staged as the last destination this time. The road after the tree reaches an unknown place that is more pleasant for the pas- senger who is passing.
The lonely old man that returns from his Utopia (photo no 11)1 : he brings some dreamy pieces as its souvenirs; the blue sky of the earth is emptier than ever without the shinning and col- orful windows of that Utopia. A mere thought about this city and the reflection of its image are enough to make him happy. ! Alas, the thing we’ve got from the merry and cheerful playing of musical instruments is only the bitterness and sadness of dying. The greenness in the background of these musical in- struments is a symbol of felicity and joy, but in this photo the encircled atmosphere with all those framed photos and their absent figures has changed all this merriment into grief. See- ing them changes the supposedly happy melody of these musical instruments into something sorrowful. Looking more deeply at the photo changes its greenness into the autumn yellow while you continue to hear melodies2 The photos of this collection are full of cultural symbols. These photos, con- trary to some intellectual artistic examples are useful for both a professional or amateur observer.
The professional observer interprets the photos through the technical means and symbols used by the photographer. The familiar environment and signs which have been portrayed will touch the amateur viewer. An interested viewer (whether pro- fessional or amateur) should spend a longer time to under- stand these photos because the meaning and the feelings are
hidden within the symbols that would not be understood just by a mere look.
An Enigmatic Human Ambience
by Mitra Soltani
Seyhoun gallery’s walls, which is one of the oldest galleries in Tehran, has been allocated for exhibiting Reza Milani’s pho- tos who is holding his first individual exhibition in this gallery. Milani is showing 15 frames (100×70) in this gallery.
Lonely Beings in a Mysterious Environment:
Milani’s photos cast a meditative look at the situation of to- day’s mankind in the modern society, and analyze their out- cast status. Milani tries to take advantage from untapped and original atmospheres to portray the loneliness of his charac- ters in the most creative way in his visual stories. Though Mi- lani himself has explained in a note that his photos can be considered separately and independently as individual enti- ties, the point that causes the viewers to consider them as a collection and to establish a link between them is the pres- ence of life in all these photos. Maybe only the mere exis- tence of a boat without any passengers, lone trees, grave- stones and the vague image of a stone are symbols of a void and absurd life that the artist intends to represent to his ob- servers. These photos, together with their characters, cause
the overflow of relenting vacuum and silence to the mind which are accompanied very well with the played music in the gallery. His photos’ silence and vacuum are the result of his “choice of subject” and its “visual representation”. Maybe photomontage has been the best means to create such ex- aggerated images, which have been undoubtedly the product of the artist’s mind, out of natural and pristine surroundings. At first glance the viewer’s mind is drawn to a mythological atmosphere, to an ancient one, the one that hasn’t been seen before or at least has remained unknown; we can even say that the represented ambience that takes us deep into history and talks of the people who don’t live anymore is different from what we know.
It should be noted that this chosen strategy for representing subjects in an esoteric surrounding causes the viewer to stand longer than usual in front of each photo to look at them more carefully! As if there is something more beyond these photos. Stones, the earth, the sky and protuberant clouds are the common elements that exist in most of the photos, and originate in form of symbols from the artist’s internal anxieties. In some of the photos an empty environment composes a great part of them, and is either the earth or the sky or a foggy and uncanny ambience.
This characteristic is mainly found in black and white photos, and colored photos, among which one has been outstanding- ly represented in a size of 1.5×1 meters, were rather different from the rest. These photos deal with one of the commonest concerns of humanity, a concern that has involved man’s mind for ages, and has gradually changed into an everyday one in his mind, so routine that he doesn’t think of it anymore: nature’s splendor and a deficient correspondence between them. Man’s mind is so deeply involved with other issues that is sullen with nature. Photos’ atmosphere represents a spooky air which is filled with a special kind of primitivism accompa- nied with a heavy and disembodied silence which are un- doubtedly resultant of their creator’s mind. These photos em- phasize especially improvisation, unearthliness and ambiguity together with dignifying. Of course, while the frames in this gallery are very detailed, and have been elaborately made some of them lack the same precision in some cases in order to emphasize more a particular meaning. In some photos one can witness a deliberate paradox too.