Alborz Habibi
Last updated: 5 April, 2013

Humans of Iran

“You will be smiled at, waved at, invited to meals, and asked to deliver personal messages to Jennifer Lopez,” wrote American photographer Brandon Stanton on his popular Facebook page after a visit to Iran in December 2012.

Supported by almost 600,000 Facebook users, his page, Humans of New York, has become a source of inspiration for freelance photographers who want to capture daily lives of their own nations and communities.

ALSO READ True stories of love and marriage under Islamic rules

Spurred by their American counterpart, the number of Humans of Iran pages grow on Facebook every month, despite a government ban on the social networking site. 

“HONY inspired me to launch the page,” said Hesam Ravanfar, the manager of Humans of Isfahan page, where he and his colleagues upload photos of their countrymen in historic Isfahan, in central Iran.

“I accidentally came across HONY page,” he told Your Middle East. “To provide the world’s people with a better understanding of Isfahanis I decided to launch the same page as long as my own focus is on street photography.”

Known as the city of poets, literature and wine, Shiraz also has its own version of the HONY page. 

“I had gotten familiar with Brandon’s page before his visit to Iran,” said the head of Humans of Shiraz page. “At that time, I only came across Humans of Tehran when I searched on the web so I decided to launch a similar page for Shirazis.”

RELATED Legends and history – the Iranian wine region of Shiraz

These pages share the same goal of introducing an aspect of Iran which is rarely covered by the media; its culture and society.

Informing their fans of the daily mood in Iran, the administrators sometimes face unusual questions from their non-Iranian followers: do Iranians wear jeans and go skate boarding, too? 

To answer such questions through their photos, the pages have to deal with other problems as well.

“Sometimes you find humans that respond angrily when seeing your camera in spite of their calm and kind look,” said Hesam. “However, nearly 80% of the people I’ve asked to pose for a photo have reacted positively.”

But Shirazis appear to be more cautious and conservative according to the manager of the Shiraz page.

“Genuinely, it’s difficult to photograph your own people and they always see it pessimistically,” he said. “Particularly if they know it is going to be published on Facebook.”

EDITOR’S PICK Iranian journalists – tears and hope