Iran in Black & White | A pictorial exploration
Continuing with the Friday theme of Iranian centric photo posts, let’s look at some B&W photographs.
This first one is of the students and teachers of the Bersabé Kindergarten ( کودکستان برسابه، اولین کودکستان ایرانی), the first modern kindergarten in Tehran, Iran. Taken on Sunday, March 19, 1939. (Great background info re the provenance of this kindergarden at the source.)
The traditional Persian martial arts (pahlavani) is a combination of weight-lifting, weight-maneouvering, weight-juggling and wrestling. The location (the gym, so to speak) where men went to practice the art and sport of phalvani were/are called “zoorkhaneh” which literally means “power houses” or “houses of power.” Traditionally, the Persian martial arts practices are accompanied with a live, very rhythmic music played on Persian drums called donbak (also called tombak, donbak, dombak, or zarb — a goblet drum hailing from ancient Iran.)
The happy athlete in the photograph is a champion pahlavan posing with a pair of light-weight meels (traditional tools used in pahlavani) resting on his shoulder. He has the title of “jahan pahlavan” which literally means “Pahlavan of the World.” (In Iran, if someone acted more aggressively than his circumstances might dictate, one would say: Who does he think he is? A pahlavan?)
This is a photo of one Mirza Ali Gholi Khan (Qajar Persian embassador to the U.S.) and his American hailing from the Boston high society wife, Florence Breed, in Washington D.C. From the looks of the photo, this is Edith Wharton era. The age of innocence! Mirza Ali Gholikhan was among the very first Iranian ambassadors to the United States – circa 1910 – and his official title was Charge d’affair of Persia. Here’s another photo of the Mirza Gholikhan and his spouse.
There are a number of fun photos of Elizabeth Taylor’s trip to Iran — circa sometime in the 60s — floating around the Internet. This one shows her in what I’m judging to be a tourist type of “Persian” coffee house. My main thought bubble is: Posture Liz! Posture!
Here’s a priceless shot of a group of Qajar era (remember the Qajar dyansty and quince kookoo?) female musicians. I detect two donbaks, one santoor, and what seems to be a mini organ. Kindly, do check out the brows and unibrows action. (The gentleman is a eunuch – I’m afraid and sadly suspect.)
Let’s end with a shot of lovely fresh-faced Iranian schoolgirls circa 1959. And not just any random group of girls. This is a snapshot of my mom and her best friends – circa 1959 – in 10th grade, Iran. Of the 6 friends: all got college degrees. 4 became medical doctors. 5 became mothers. 4 still live in Iran. 2 I called aunts. All 6 still remain good friends. My mom is the one second from the left. She and the one friend all the way to the right and the other friend all the way to the left were BFFs and known as the 3 musketeers. This is one of my favorite pix of all time.
Wait! What’s the sound? Oh, it looks like the school bell is ringing! Perfect for tanbal students like me to take off for recess.
So until next time: Happy Weekend!