by Rea on 21 Jun 2016
Iran through the eyes of Homa: Art exhibition at Tehran's Niavaran Cultural Centre from 24th September 2016 till 1st October.
Pioneer in aerial photography Georg Gerster, who captured stunning images of 1970s Iran from the air, explains how he came to undertake such a perilous and rewarding photographic journey.
"Flying on business over Iran, I had been struck by the thought that Persia’s natural and cultural landscape was predestined to be viewed from the air, with its salt deserts, gardens like slices of paradise, and waterless wind-sculpted wastelands. Its settlements are textbook examples of architecture without an architect, and the qanats, underground aqueducts, form graphic patterns. The idea of the bird’s eye view certainly wasn’t incongruous: the Homa, half eagle, half bird of paradise, is a mythical beast of Persian mythology, a harbinger of good fortune. On 12 October 1975 I delivered a letter by hand to the imperial court in Tehran, suggesting that I should produce a book, ‘Persia through the eyes of the Homa’.
The response from Tehran was encouraging: Empress Farah handed the project over to Iran Air, which was appropriate as the airline uses the mythical Homa as its logo. Dr Azizi, its chief public relations officer, was to be my contact. An aeroplane was not bought for me, but I was given unlimited access to a twin engined Britten-Norman BN 2 ‘Islander’ from the Imperial Aero Club. I undertook all flights with an expert on the region, German archaeologist Dr Dietrich Huff. He would take his seat at the front behind the two pilots, while my position was in the tail of the aircraft, next to a gaping hole where the cargo door normally would be.
My position for taking photographs, half sitting, half lying, couldn’t exactly be described as comfortable, but I had an almost clear field of view, with just a hazy marginal vortex caused by the hot exhaust from the engines.
Between 11 April 1976 and 30 May 1978, I made more than a hundred flights, completing 300 flying hours. Our planning took into consideration the change of the seasons, as far as was possible, which brought some wonderful discoveries: spring in the Azarbayjan highlands is one of the most beautiful spectacles this earth has to offer. We wanted to cover every part of the country, which almost overstretched the range and capabilities of our aircraft – it took several attempts to cross the Alborz mountains."
Swing by the Cultural Centre if you are in Tehran end September.
Enjoy The Real Iran