Last Updated July 13, 2018

Abbas

Iranian (Born 1944 - Died 2018 ) FREE LISTING
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Iranian photographer Abbas, who died in Paris in 2018 at the age of 74, dedicated his career to the political and social coverage of nations and societies in conflict. He covered wars, social unrest and revolutions in Biafra, Bangladesh, Ulster, Vietnam, the Middle East, Chile, Cuba, and South Africa.

His first work in a conflict zone was in Nigeria, photographing the Biafran War (the Nigerian Civil War). He then spent several years working for the pan-African magazine 'Jeune Afrique'.

In 1971 Abbas joined Sipa Press in Paris, staying with the agency until 1973. From 1974-1980 he was represented by Gamma, and his work in this period included documenting Muhammad Ali’s legendary Rumble in the Jungle in 1974, and the Iranian Revolution between 1978 and 1980. After 1980 he didn’t return to Iran until 1997, when he made work included in his book Iran Diary 1971-2002. Abbas first joined Magnum Photos in 1981, and became a full member in 1985.

“The school of Henri Cartier-Bresson, they draw with light, they sketch with light,” he told Magnum. “The single picture is paramount for them. For me, that was never the point. My pictures are always part of a series, an essay. Each picture should be good enough to stand on its own but its value is a part of something larger.”

Abbas photographed the Iranian revolution between 1978-1980, and returned in 1997 after 17 years in exile. His book Iran Diary 1971-2002 (Autrement 2002) is a critical interpretation of its history, photographed and written as a personal diary.

He travelled throughout Mexico from 1983-1986, trying to photograph the country as a novelist might write about it, and making the book and exhibition Return to Mexico: Journeys Beyond the Mask. His work became increasingly focused on religion, and on the way in which religions become part of wider political ideologies and therefore a key source of struggle in the contemporary world.

From 1987-1994 he photographed the resurgence of Islam. The resulting book and exhibition, Allah O Akbar, a journey through militant Islam (Phaidon 1994), exposed the internal tensions within Muslim societies. He photographed religious subgroups such as Muslims in China and Jews in Ethiopia, and wanted to understand why people believe in God. "I don't think God created man," he insisted. "I think man created God."

In 1979 he photographed a woman accused of supporting the Shah being dragged by a mob through the streets of Tehran. The powerful picture shows the woman's look of resignation to her fate in contrast with the fury of her captors. The photograph represented what Abbas would later focus on – "What people do in the name of God." He had the feeling that the revolution was being stolen from the people, a idea reflected in the cover of his book, 'Iran: La Révolution Confisquée' (1980). The anger the book aroused drove him into an exile from his homeland lasting 17 years.

In the year 2000 his book Faces of Christianity, a photographic journey (A.Abrams 2000), was published, the work was also subject of a touring exhibition. His book, In Whose Name? The Islamic World after 9/11 (Thames and Hudson 2009), is a seven years quest within 16 countries.

During the period 2008 to 2010 Abbas travelled the world of Buddhism for his book Les Enfants du lotus, voyage chez les bouddhistes (De la Martinire 2011). In 2011 he began a similar long-term project on Hinduism which he concluded in 2013.

In a career that spanned six decades, he covered wars and revolutions in Biafra, Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, Vietnam, the Middle East, Chile, Cuba, and South Africa during apartheid. He also documented life in Mexico over several years, and pursued a lifelong interest in religion and its intersection with society. Up until his death Abbas continued to explore religion, with his last project focussing on Judaism around the world.

Abbas, is survived by his four sons. He was a private man and would often cover his face when he was photographed.