Photography: Down Persian Roads
by ARIA FANI
26 Oct 2010 18:51
My friendship with Riccardo Zipoli took place in the world of texts and computer screens, where his flexibility and friendliness came across with tact and style. I was compiling a textbook for the teaching of Persian, and he was generous with offers of both advice and his photographs of the Iranian landscape. Recently, I had the honor of meeting Professor Zipoli in Venice. I found our first meeting surreal -- I stepped into a different world through his eloquence in Persian, his knowledge of the Iranian landscape, and his ability to tune in to the nuances of Iran's complex society and culture.
Born in Prato, Italy, Riccardo Zipoli started his academic career in 1978. He was made a full professor in 1987. At present, he chairs the Department of Eurasian Studies at Venice University. His explorations of the Iranian landscape have been featured in books and photographic journals.
What was your first contact with the Persian language, and at what point did you decide to pursue Persian literature as a career?
When I went to study at Venice University in 1971, I met Professor Gianroberto Scarcia, who was the professor of Persian language and literature there at that time. He convinced me to choose Persian as my main language and I immediately started to study Persian. In 1972, I went to Iran for the first time and fell in love with that marvelous country, its people, its culture, its landscape. I understood that I had made the right choice. I went on with studying Persian and took my degree some years later, exactly in 1975.
How was your first trip to Iran?
I went to Iran for my first time in 1972 with Professor Scarcia. We went there by car, traveling through the former Yugoslavia and Turkey. We stayed in Iran for one month, visiting some important cities but also many small villages and the countryside. Often we were guests of local people, and had our meals and accommodation in their houses (many times on the roofs, outside). This was a great opportunity to get familiar with the culture and traditions of the "real" country. We traveled mostly in the central and southern part of Iran.
You have worked on both classical and modern Persian poetry. Would you please tell us about the nature of your research and works?
My works are mainly devoted to classical Persian poetry, with particular regard to the so-called Indian style, the elm-e qafiye (rhyming) and the hajv/hazl (parody) poetry. I have a special interest for the Persian landscape, which I portrayed in some books and exhibitions, usually accompanying the photos with lines of Persian poems. One of these books, Ta Shaqayeq Hast (While Poppies Bloom), was published in Iran in 2005. My photos are accompanied there by poems by Sohrab Sepehri. Recently I published a book of photos of Venetian window reflections together with lines of Bidel (in Persian and Italian translation) concerning the theme of the reflection in the mirror (Venezia alle finestre, Venice, 2006).
Your "other" passion is photography. In the past three decades, numerous galleries and art museums have exhibited your photographs in various Italian cities and around the world. How was holding an exhibition in Tehran?
The welcome to my exhibition in Iran (Inner Eye, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran, February 19 to April 13, 2008) was really moving. People showed a deep and genuine interest. I showed there my photos of Venetian window reflections and a video of an anthology of my photos of Iran and several other countries. There were so many people that the hall, where the welcoming speech was organized, was too small for the public. Many newspapers had beautiful articles about the exhibition and there were also some programs on the radio and the television.
How did you come about organizing an exhibition in Venice devoted to the works of Contemporary Iranian photographers?
I am convinced that Iranian photographers are among the most interesting photographers in the world. Consequently I decided to show some of their works in Italy in a great exhibition (Iran: People, Roads, Landscapes -- Photographs by Abbas Kiarostami, Riccardo Zipoli, and 56 Contemporary Iranian Photographers, Centro Culturale Candiani, Mestre-Venice, August 27 to October 14, 2007). The photos were chosen through a public competition conducted on the Internet. I received around 4,000 photos and chose only 56 of them -- the choice was very difficult because most of the images were beautiful and interesting. I also decided to show, in the same exhibition, some of my photos of the Persian landscape and a series of photos devoted to the theme of the "roads of Iran," trying to highlight the similarities between the photos, on this theme, by Abbas Kiarostami and by myself. The exhibition had a very warm welcome and many catalogues were sold. My aim was to show a genuine and beautiful image of Iran, its people, its landscapes, and its roads far from the stereotypes dominating the Western media.
What activities and projects have you been working on recently?
At the moment, I am working on the Italian translation of a rich anthology of hajv/hazl Persian poetry -- from the beginning up to our days -- which will take me some years. At the same time I have almost finished the Italian translation of the Tur-e Ma'refat of Bidel which will be published together with some photos of Bayrat, the place in India described in several of Bidel's masnavis. At the same time, I am organizing photographic events -- books and exhibitions -- concerning the Persian landscape. Despite the fact that my "career" as a photographer started in Iran, my photographic activity is no longer concentrated only on Iran and I travel across many countries, continuously organizing new galleries on my website -- the latest of which are devoted to Las Vegas and the U.S. national parks.
View more of Riccardo Zipoli's photographs from Iran and around the world at www.riccardozipoli.com. Iran: People, Roads, Landscapes -- Photographs by Abbas Kiarostami, Riccardo Zipoli, and 56 Contemporary Iranian Photographers and Venezia alle finestre are available at www.abebooks.com/.