Untitled, from Flowers in the Image of Imagination series
As a photographer, Bahman Jalali dedicated his life not only to capturing his time and place, but also to furthering knowledge of the medium and its rich history in Iran. In addition to creating his own work for nearly half a century, Jalali researched and preserved the Qajar-period collection in the Golestan Palace; salvaged studio archives in Bushehr, Kazerun, and Shiraz; helped establish Tehran’s first photography museum; and taught university courses.
In a departure from his documentary style—yet keeping with his interest in the visual history of Iran—Jalali created the Image of Imagination series from 2000 to 2008. Using nineteenth-century images by Antoin Sevruguin and other early photographers, he created composite works using multiple negatives, as well as materials such as flowers, documents, or his own writing. By layering elements into a single composition, Jalali moves beyond preserving records of the past to reimagining and questioning it. A recurring device throughout the Image of Imagination series is the appropriation of portraits to call attention to the representation of the feminine in early photography.