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Interview with Aitai Shakibafar, Photojournalist & Documentary Photographer from Iran

© Aitai Shakibafar

A few days ago, several cities in Iran suffered from heavy flooding and torrential rain, for almost two months I was at the side of the people, never forget the first day I saw the lives of people in flooded areas, I became influenced and my feelings were involved. But I tried to control my feelings as photojournalism, because otherwise it would not be possible to take photographs of the event.

RK : First of all, thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview. Please say something about you. What first attracted you to photography? Do you have an educational artistic background?

Aitai Shakibafar : I am Aitai Shakibafar, 30 years old. I’m from Iran. I hold a bachelor degree in Photography and a master's degree in Graphic Arts. I teach photography at Art Universities in Tehran. I've been in photography for 14 years. The first thing that have attracted me to photography was to communicate with people and to see things that only photographers can observe through the lens. Over the time, I felt photography is an integral part of my life which I can illustrate people's problems to the whole world.

RK : Out of all photography genres, why did you choose Photojournalism?

Aitai Shakibafar : Among all the genres of photography, I chose photojournalism, because I can travel to different places where others may not be able to do so, so I can communicate with people that I'm taking their photos. My main concern in photography is people and the realities of societies.

© Aitai Shakibafar

RK : What is your personal definition of photojournalism?

Aitai Shakibafar : My personal definition of photojournalism is that, without limitations of language and culture, it begins to record events and display the inner layers of life. Photojournalism has the task of informing and transferring various ways of life, and in a particular sense of this definition, photojournalism is, in many cases, documenting harsh conditions in the surrounding area.

© Aitai Shakibafar

RK : What do you enjoy most about your photojournalism career? What are the pitfalls?

Aitai Shakibafar : One of the enjoyable parts of documentary photography for me is living with people. As a female photographer, I live with people in their houses, they talk to me and they trust me during photography, this experience is very enjoyable to me, but there are also some problems, such as lack of adequate security in the areas I am photographing.

RK : How do you choose the stories that you want to cover?

Aitai Shakibafar : By studying areas that I feel are less noticeable, I will choose my photography location. Meanwhile, contemporary social and environmental issues that affect the world are always my photography subjects. On my trips, when I face more people, I encounter stories that are the subjects of my photos.

© Aitai Shakibafar

RK : How do you approach strangers? What do you say to them? Or, do you simply watch, capture and move on? Indeed, we are curious to know how you operate.

Aitai Shakibafar : I want to photograph people, I talk to them for hours and listen to their hearts and stories. If I am traveling, live with them for several days so I can have a better understand their life challenges and then take pictures of them.

RK : From your point of view, what makes a good picture?

Aitai Shakibafar : I believe that, a good picture communicates with the audience, which makes it possible for the audience to visualize, a good picture must be indicated by signs, telling events.

© Aitai Shakibafar

RK : What was the project or single photo launched or shaped your career?

Aitai Shakibafar : About 10 years ago, on one of my trips, when I went fishing with fishermen for several days and lived with them at sea in Bandar Abbas, doing this photography project was so fascinating to me that I decided to take a more serious shots and actually take my career appointed.

RK : Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?

Aitai Shakibafar : One of those who has always been inspirational in photography, is Sebastiano Salgado, a photojournalist and documentary photographer from Brazil who traveled to more than 120 countries. His subjects and his eyes on the surroundings have always been a role model for me.

RK : Have you ever gotten emotionally involved during an assignment?

Aitai Shakibafar : A few days ago, several cities in Iran suffered from heavy flooding and torrential rain, for almost two months I was at the side of the people, never forget the first day I saw the lives of people in flooded areas, I became influenced and my feelings were involved. But I tried to control my feelings as photojournalism, because otherwise it would not be possible to take photographs of the event.

© Aitai Shakibafar

© Aitai Shakibafar

RK : What is the most difficult image you’ve ever taken?

Aitai Shakibafar : The hardest photo I've ever taken was about years ago when I took a picture of the Plasco Building fire, which was a very old and very large building in Tehran, at that time there was a lot of fire, breathing was very hard and due to the large amount of smoke, I did not have a good field of view, after several hours, found the bodies, and this was very painful.

© Aitai Shakibafar

© Aitai Shakibafar

RK : Interesting anecdote about life as a photojournalist & documentary photographer?

Aitai Shakibafar : About two months ago, in one of the flood-hit villages, a cow was plunged into the mud after the flood, local people were trying to save the cow, and they noticed my presence when I wanted to take pictures of them. They threw mud at me, but after introducing myself and communicating with them, they became friendlier with me and invited me to their homes, and we laughed with together at the incident.

© Aitai Shakibafar

RK : Do you have any pieces of advice for young photographers interested in documentary photography but who want to earn a living?

Aitai Shakibafar : My recommendation to young photographers interested in documentary photography and photojournalism is that there is no limitation in photographing in this category, and photojournalists must be able to travel in the most difficult conditions with high physical power. Young documentary photographers to photography from people, have to spend time to be trusted by people. Controlling feelings is another important issue during documentary photography.

RK : We are trying to build one single stage for all the artists, because we believe that artists are the most beautiful creation of God and geographical boundary can never break their unity and harmony. Please say something about our initiative and any special message for your followers.

Aitai Shakibafar : It's very unique to create a single stage for artists, because apart from racial segregation and geographical boundaries, your focus should be on artists and their artworks. I thank my followers for always following my photos and publish my artworks and motivate me and, finally, thank the Retro Kolkata excellent magazine group.


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