Photo Archive

Zahra Khodadadeh

Mohammad Ali Jadid al-Islam was born in 1952 in Tabriz. His family was accustomed to photography, and he inherited photography a few generations ago, from his father, grandfather, and even his paternal grandfathers. But Mohammad Ali himself, in 1983, established his photography studio for the first time and engaged in personal activity in this field. Before that, he had studied for many years to teach photography in various studios. After his apprenticeship, in addition to his professional work in his personal studio, he also engaged in photography of nature and social documentaries. But what sets him apart in the field of photography is the huge collection of portraits he has taken of Iranian celebrities over the years. One of the first celebrities who Jadid al-Islam took photo of him is the late Azeri, the musician and Ali Salimi, the composer. This photo, which was the beginning of a big collection, of which nearly twenty thousand of them are still in Jadid al-Islam's collection.

When Mohammad Ali Jadid al-Islam is mentioned as a portrait photographer, what stands out most in the minds of the audience of his photographs is his high expertise in portrait lighting. Jadid al-Islam got this ability and skill from the teachings of Rasam Nakhjavani, his master in the field of portrait photography. Apart from his abilities in the field of photography, today Mohammad Ali Jadid al-Islam is known as one of the first collectors of cameras in Iran. His unique collection includes 950 cameras in different types and pieces and an unparalleled archive of old and early photographs. His largest camera is a lantern camera that eats a 24-by-18-inch film, and the smallest are spy cameras from the Minox and Leica factories. Some of these cameras are up to 150 years old. Also, the archive of his first photographs includes works that are very valuable from a historical point of view and even includes photographs of famous photographers of the Qajar era.

1.    How did you collect these photographs as a collection?
There are many reasons that gave a passion to me for collecting photos. The story of the old photographs archive is related to many years ago; I have to give a brief history of my childhood. I was born in a family which my father, my grandfather, and my paternal grandfather were photographers, and they left a large number of glass-paper negatives, photo albums, and cameras. In the house where I grew up, I had a camera and various movies in front of my eyes, and every time we went on a trip, I had a camera box. When I was twelve years old, my father introduced me to his friend, a photographer named Mr. Ahmad Kiabakht, who was the director of the Hollywood Photography Studio, then it was scheduled to start photography training in Hollywood. It was summer, and I had just finished my sixth grade. From that holiday on, my serious connection to photography began, and as the saying goes, "The first day they handed me over to the teacher, he taught wisdom the to others and drove me crazy".
After working in a Hollywood photography studio for a while, I also worked for a while in the "Beach Photography Studio" under the management of Mr. Ali Ismaeilpour and his brother Adel Ismaeilpour. I worked on the beach from seven in the morning until seven in the evening, and after saving my salary for five weeks, which was five tomans a week, I bought my first camera for twenty-five tomans. The camera was branded Agfa. I must say that since I was a child, I was interested in photography because of seeing all kinds of photo albums, cameras, and old photos, and I even made photo albums for myself many times. I corresponded with most of the actors and asked them to send me a signed photo of themselves, and fortunately this happened, they were very surprised at my request but they did it. One day, Mr. Alireza Zarindast (filmmaker) came to my studio and I showed them a photo of themselves with their signature on the photo. When I said that you sent me this photo years ago, they were very surprised. This is how I collected most of the photos. Over time, this method made me worry about collecting photos, and I became more interested in this work with the results obtained by the artists.

For a while, I worked at the Rembrand Photography Studio, which was managed by Professor Morteza Nakhjavani. Master Nakhjavani was a master designer and in addition to photography, he also painted. One day a woman brought a photo and ordered Mr. Nakhjavani to design Sattar Khan  paintings from that photo. We later found out that she was the daughter of Sattar Khan. After the design was finished, the lady did not take the photo with her, and I asked the teacher to give me the photo. After that I had that photo, I got excited again to look for old photos more insistently than before, in addition to collecting photos of celebrities. I went to different brokers and if I could find old photos, I would buy them, collect the paper and glass negatives left by my grandfather, go to one of the oldest photo studios in Tabriz called "Mehr" under the management of Mr. Ali Asghar Mehr and take a series of photos from there. After a while, the director of Mehr photography studio died and I started buying his negatives. The price they put for archiving their negatives was four hundred tomans and it was not possible for me to buy it at that time. Days and years passed and I was still buying photos from the brokers until one day a gentleman came to my studio and brought two bottles of photos with him and asked me to print them. When I took the glasses, I noticed that one of them showed Sattar Khan smoking a hookah and the other showed the constitutionalists on the day of Ashura announced by the Russians. Out of curiosity, I asked, "Where did you get these glasses?" And they said that the glasses were left by their father, who owned the "Mehr" photography studio. I told the story of the days when I decided to buy a collection of Mehr photographs and they said that a large number of those glasses that belonged to the Qajar and Pishvar periods were broken and set on fire after the revolution, and only a few of them remain. They asked me to go to their house one day and check the photos. I went and separated the family photos, the democratic sect, the constitutional and the anonymous. After reviewing and separating the photos, the gentleman told me that we will give you these photos and we have no doubt that you will use these photos well. And they just asked me to give them a copy of those photos after they were published. After this incident, I combined this series of photos with the photos I already had. I decided to talk to a magazine to see the photos and publish the photos in book form. After six months, two books called "Old Tabriz" and "Old Iran" were published by Abrisham Publications. I almost started collecting photos. These were the events I was going to myself and I am still looking for photos.
2.    How many photos do you have in the collection?
At present, I have about seventy to eighty films in the archive of 18*24 glass and about twenty glass negatives from Qajar and the constitution. The negatives I got from "Mehr Photo Gallery" are about a hundred, which are small and some of them are copies. I have 6*6 and 6*9 negatives from historical places. The events of the revolution and the history that I have recorded can be said to be more than twenty thousand photos. The negatives that I have photographed of Iranian artists and celebrities, if we count the number of people, I have photographed about two thousand five hundred people. I have about two hundred photos of Dmitry Yermakov, Mirza Abdullah Qajar, and Mohammad Hassan Qajar. In addition, I have a unique photo album of Antoine Sevruguin, which has thirty-three photos and is almost half porn. They ordered this album for ten thousand dollars, but I did not sell it. I have more than a hundred films of one hundred and thirty years old with the subject of old carpets, which are now in the possession of the Tehran Carpet Museum. In addition to photos, I have about nine hundred and fifty collections of cameras.


3.    Is there a photo in your archive that has not been published anywhere?
Yes. There are photos that have not been published yet. I have only exhibited some of them several times in Tehran photography studio.

4.    Do you have a list of photos?
My categorization is as follows: for example, I have collected the photos related to the profession and put them in a box. I have not received a specific list of them. I have just categorized and separated them with a specific subject.

5.    Will you give the photos of your archive to researchers?
If researchers ask me for some photos, I give them a photo that I believe that there is no problem for their publications. But I will not give them some photos, such as Yermakov's album. Not because I think the photos are unique to me, not at all. Incidentally, I have collected the photos for the purpose of benefiting the history of Iran in the future, now that I think these photos will be of great value in the future. The passage of time adds value to the photos. I worked very hard for these photos in time. I just went to Tehran because of a photo of Colonel Pesyan. By that I mean that I collected the photos under these circumstances and the process was not very easy for me. It so happened that I exchanged only one photo with one of my cameras. I am still trying to take photograph and collect faces for the future.
These days, I share photos on a virtual page called Instagram through my own page, which is named after me, and I have written below the photos, which can be used by mentioning the source of the photos. Of course, I have provided a large number of my photographs to the esteemed artist Mr. Mehrdad Oskooi. For all this archive that I have from the Municipality of Tabriz, for the first time in Iran, they have given a license for a special museum, but they have only given its license, and it is difficult to accomplish such a thing without having a suitable place to use the museum and facilities.


6.    As you said, you also have photos of Russian Dmitry Yermakov in your archive; how did these photos get into your archive and how many photos are there?
I was once a teacher at school, one day a man named Ahad Ghobari called me and made an appointment with me. He came and said that you have worked very hard to educate my son and I have brought you some photos that I bought from a shopkeeper at the beginning of the revolution as a token of appreciation and as a gift. A number of photographs of Mirza Abdullah Qajar with his signature, a number of Antoine Sevruguin, Mohammad Hassan Qajar, Qajar visits to Atabak Azam and a large number of Dmitry Yermakov, which numbered about one hundred and fifty. I have sixty to fifty photos of Dmitry Yermakov separately. I only have Yermakov in my collection of Russian photographers.

7.    As a final question, do you have a specific plan for your collection?
My cameras and photo archive have a lot of customers. One day they called the Dubai auction and asked that my cameras be sold at the auction. But since I consider my collection to belong to the culture and art of my city and country, this prejudice against the homeland led to that I reject them. In terms of the identity of the Iranian people, the history of Iran, Iranian families. All of this will be possible by looking at family photo albums and old negative glass, and I'm glad I was one of those people who tried to collect these photos, which would have been destroyed if I had not done so. 
Finally, I must say that photography helps us. We can always remember many things through photographs, photography means writing with light, the camera is like a photographer's pen, and a photographer with light fights against blackness and darkness, and leads the society towards the light where the light remains and is eternal. I hope that after me and others who have tried to preserve the photos of our life history, others will do the same, which is very valuable.