Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji - Inside the Temples of Iran
Reza is a 23-year-old physics student and architectural photographer from northern Iran. His incredible images of religious sites from around his country have been praised across the web, and earlier this year he was shortlisted in the panoramic category of the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards. His carefully planned out wide-angle images are evocative of looking through a toy kaleidoscope: the symmetry is incredibly precise and begs you to really inspect each photo and soak up as much of the scene as possible. I was extremely happy to talk to Reza and ask him about his inspirations, the obstacles he faces with photographing religious buildings, and his plans for the future.
Hello Reza. You are studying at the moment right? How do your studies fit with your photography?
Yes, I study physics. Actually there is not much relationship between my studies and my photography, but as there is lots of maths in physics, it helps me work out the space and dimensions that I use in my photography.
What first got you interested in photographing religious buildings?
I have been interested in taking pictures since I was a child, and always tried to take pictures with my grandfather's old camera. I was shocked and amazed when I saw pictures of inside the Egyptian pyramids on Google Earth for the first time. It made me wonder if I could take such pictures.
I take pictures mainly of historical buildings. There are many mosques in Iran with beautiful mosaic works, awesome symmetry and bright colours, which made me want to concentrate on putting together a collection of all the different sites.
Is it easy to shoot in religious buildings, do you need permission?
It is not always easy! If that religious building is a popular historical site you will have many people visiting it, and lots of crowds. They also mostly ban professional photography and using a tripod. The mosques are also closed during prayer times. To work with all this, I make sure that a week before I want to go to the building I complete the necessary paper work to get permission for access and to use my tripod.
How much have you travelled around Iran for your photography?
In my free time I always travel around Iran. To prepare, I learn about the place, and look at pictures on the internet. I also ask other photographers who live in the city if they can help me with my travels.
Would you like to extend the travels to other countries to continue the series?
It is something which I would really love! Unfortunately as Iran has a forced military service, it's hard for young guys to travel outside. Actually we are not allowed to go out before doing military service, and as I am a student, I haven’t yet had the chance. I hope that next year I will continue my studies and apply to a country where I can carry on with my architectural photography. I’d really like to take pictures of Jewish or Christian historic sites.
What do you want to show the world about Iran with your photography?
I want beauty to be seen, no matter where it is located. I also want to document these places as maybe in the next 20 years many of them will change a lot or even get destroyed. I want people to feel the symmetry, the mosaic works and colours and really feel the power of the buildings.
You were shortlisted for the 2014 Sony Photography Awards in panoramic category (image below) – congratulations! Did this exposure open up new opportunities for you?
Yes, it did and I am very thankful and happy for that success. It opened a new door for my photography and it helped me as I became more accepted in the photographer's society. It’s helped my photography be seen by more people than before.
And so Reza, what does the future hold for you?
My success in photography so far has given me good self-confidence, which I hope will help me be even more successful in studying and in going for my goals. The future holds success, hard work and creative ideas.