Elizabeth Taylor in Iran: Photographs by Firooz Zahedi
In 1976 Elizabeth Taylor visited Iran for the first and only time. Accompanying her was Firooz Zahedi, a recent art school graduate just learning his craft, who has since gone on to become a successful Hollywood photographer. Iran provided an exotic and engaging locale for Taylor, a tireless global wanderer still at the height of her fame. For Zahedi, who left Iran as a child, this was a reintroduction to his own country. The pair traveled to the main tourist sites: ancient Persepolis, Shiraz, home of poetry and wine, and Isfahan, renowned for its beautiful tile-clad buildings. Though Zahedi was to photograph Taylor many times in the years following their Iran trip, none are as personal, candid, or creative as these unique images.
This installation was made possible in part by the Art of the Middle East Council. Additional support was provided by The Icon Lab.
Image: Firooz Zahedi, Dressed as an Odalisque, 1976, © Firooz Zahedi.
Recently, I interviewed Firooz Zahedi about his photographs of Elizabeth Taylor in Iran. He traveled there with her in 1976, as a recent art school graduate, and made the photographs that are part of the exhibition Elizabeth Taylor in Iran. They are like vacation snapshots from a very exotic trip–very personal images.
Firooz started out as a diplomat before going to art school. We talked about the fact that it was somewhat unusual for someone from a traditional family such as his to pursue an art career–and how Elizabeth Taylor encouraged him to do so.
I like the part of the video (around 2:52, below) when he recalls the sense memories of an afternoon visit to an old teahouse– the sounds on the street, the feeling of being indoors protected from the outdoor heat. He describes these memories as part of the essential feeling of Iran, in the way that we all have some nostalgia for a place and time that defined our childhoods.