Photographing the Apocalypse

I've been following the work of Pouria Khojastehpay for a while now. I've been moved by his landscapes echoing my favourite dystopian literature, The Road, The Country of Last Things and more. I can see him being the inspiration for abandoned lands in Star Wars movies, perhaps he's actually the inspiration for "Episode 10 - The Force Sleeps"

Embarrassingly I didn't even realise that the work were composites until exploring his website, so realistic are his interpretations of "the end" 

Born in Iran, raised in the Netherlands, Khojastehpay is one of my favourite photographers, go explore his work... Q+A below image:
 

1.     Freedom of interpretation is something you’ve given to your viewers. Do you also allow yourself that freedom? As in you’re free to create what you wish free of dogma, personal or otherwise?

Yes, although I started by following a set of beliefs that would put my work in the dystopian/sci-fi category. I think it's important to have this as a primary basis and around that you have the freedom to experiment, create. Have to say this industry is quite elitist which is a shame. 


2.     You allude to human demise and destruction:  There are many art forms that explore this genre, do you have any artists that inspire you in this regard?

Yes I'm heavily inspired by documentary photographers that visit conflict zones. No particular names because there are so many. 

 

3.     I see your buildings almost as the last living creatures in the landscape, they have personality and think their “life” and the seemingly high vibrations of the landscape is what makes the images so compelling. Do you also see your work as living spaces?

It's actually in between. So it's alive indeed, but it's dying because it has failed in developing (the future). Achieving utopia but drastically failing.

4.     I find it interesting that you spent most of your life outside of Iran, yet your artworks almost echo the media’s portrayal of Iran. Its almost like you’re hankering for your homeland? Am I reading too much into that?

No you're right. I was born there but only visited once when I was 12 and back then I wasn't really interested in discovering my roots. Later I started reading about all the different dynasties over the years in Iran and the dark period during the Iran-Iraq war which my family experienced and my father had to participate in. I don't want to live in Iran, I just NEED to visit and re-discover.  


5.   What are the realities of daily life in Holland as an Iranian? IE Do you feel Dutch or is there a disconnect (incidental or intentional)

In general Iranians are very good in acclimatising.  I grew up in a white neighbourhood and I was one of the very few foreigners at my elementary school but I would be lying if I say we haven't dealt with racism. Matter of fact I'm still dealing with it now and then. Just today my friend and I got followed by two police officers because to them we looked suspicious. Unfortunately the authorities still do racial profiling. I feel Dutch when I'm abroad, but when I'm here they sometimes make you feel like an outsider 

6.     The tattoos that you feature on your IG reference two numbers “98773 and 98071” Would you mind explaining what that means?

I have a thing for numerology. These are actually just area codes in Iran. 98773 is Bushehr where my father was born. 98071 is where my mother and I were born and that would be the historical city of Shiraz. 

7.     In the same breathe you mention your Grandfather changing his name. Would you mind telling me what your Khojastehpay means, and why your grandfather decided to change the family name.

It means ''In search of happiness''. My Grandfather changed his last name for two reasons. 1. He didn't like his old name. 2. He wanted to become the first of a new family name. 

8.     Tattoos play a big role in my life and work. Who are some of your favourite artists? And do you have a particular style that you prefer?

Always had a thing for criminal tattoos. Gang tattoos, prison tattoos. But I appreciate a lot of different styles.

But I have to give a shout out to my friend Levi Jake. Other favourite artists are Maxime Buchi, Liam Sparkes and the Euthanesia Crew in Russia. There are so many more though... 

Levi Jake - Click image for Instagram

Levi Jake - Click image for Instagram

9.     A lot of artists battle to get by, do you have a “job” or have you been able to dedicate your self to your art?

I have a job as the supervisor and content manager for Paris based magazine and gallery SOME/THINGS. Would definitely dedicate myself to my art if I get the opportunity to earn a living with it. Until that moment I would be a pretentious fuck to say that I'm 100% dedicated. Don't get me wrong though, I stand a 100% behind my work but I have bills to pay. 

10.  Are there topics that you wish to delve into? Anything that appeals to you that I haven’t touched on

Using political decisions and situations to create a future dystopian version based on those events. Nothing Sci-Fi, very realistic actually. Trying to achieve fictional abandoned war zones. Inspired by wars in the Middle East and riots in the West. 

11.  Would you be interested in exhibiting in South Africa?

Yeah most definitely. Also interested in a short/long term artist residency in Johannesburg.


You can find Pouria Khojastehpay here and IG