Interview with Alborz Teymoorzadeh
Born in 1987 in a northern city of Iran, Alborz Teymoorzadeh completed his degree in Architecture and now resides in Luxembourg.
Born in 1987 in a northern city of Iran, Alborz Teymoorzadeh completed his degree in Architecture and now resides in Luxembourg. His work artfully marries his architectural background with a keen photographic insight. He draws captivating parallels between urban landscapes and bustling theaters, portraying humans as the central figures navigating this dramatic setting. Teymoorzadeh exhibits a strong penchant for motion photography and exposure, particularly when capturing human subjects in theatrical settings, resulting in a luminous interplay of light, form, and narrative. As a versatile artist, he skillfully wields a range of mediums—from photography to sculpture and illustration—to vividly express his inner visions.
ZH: After almost nine years, we reconvene for ZH magazine. Reflecting on your initial engagements with us, how has your artistic lens transformed over the years?
Thank you for another interview. It has always been a fruitful and joyful experience to converse with you.
I have become older! It might look like a joke, but it’s also true. When I was in my 20s, I didn’t consider age a factor. It’s not only about becoming mature or your hair turning white, but mainly about how I conceive the world, function, and react. The rhythm and metabolism of my daily artistic production, about the responsibility of my life/work, to take myself accountable for what I produce, what I inject into this world, what I leave behind, and the resources I use, time, material, and space.
As humans, we don’t live long enough to experience transformation, evolution, or some metamorphosis. We could live as long as an oak tree, so I can call it micro-transformation, periodic pivots in life, gently shaping thoughts and works, piece by piece, like a sculpture. In a sense, we’re objects of our environment and choices.”
ZH: Your training in architecture and your passion for photography create a unique fusion. How do you see these disciplines conversing within your artwork?
I always use this example, which may seem simplistic, but it’s the only way I can explain it. There are some villages in the world, and for sure in Iran, where the concept of vacation and holidays does not exist because cattle need to eat every day, and the farm and the garden need work and caring every day. Their job, profession, and training are their passion, and their passion is their daily work. Their life is their work, and their work is their life itself. The two are one, and it’s called ‘living’. This is the way of my ‘living’ as a being. When I do something, I live, sleep, and wake up with it.
So, the separation of architecture from photography, video, illustration, etc., doesn’t happen through training or a passion but only based on the possibility and potential each discipline puts on my table. They are tools with specific functions in my toolset. To give some examples, photography is a tool for me to observe, to look at the subject like an anthropologist, to absorb, to gather data. It’s also helpful in documenting and storytelling. Architecture gives me an understanding of the surroundings and materials that no other discipline can. It changed me forever and the way I see the world. Illustration, drawing, and painting are tools to think out loud, to go beyond reality, to visualize my thoughts, a direct link from the brain to the outer world through my hand, and video is a place to combine all. It’s the world of temporal incidents, a realm where all forms of art collide in every single frame, where you can visualize without restrictions and borders and dream freely.
ZH: “Multiple Exposure,” both as a technique and a theme, seems central to your oeuvre. Can you share your philosophy behind the interplay of light and shadow and how it shapes your narrative?
Shadow and light, on one hand, are the main ingredients of an image, and in their purest combination, they become the figure-ground, the gestalt, the boundaries, the limits. Still, on the other hand, the superimposition of them creates shades of grey. Grey is where the magic happens; grey is the limbo, the moment of transition. Grey is the liminal space, the in-between. If I want to choose a color for the most romantic form of democracy in a utopian world, a democracy beyond the never-ending conflict of left and right, where ideas, beliefs, and profits collide in a win-win game, that color would be grey. The state between existences is neutral, yet the ground for all, an ever-changing basis based on ideas and logic at their current time. Based on this, multiple exposures is a technique to extract this in-betweenness, to go further than a moment and give a temporal depth to the final image beyond its boundaries.
ZH: Urban landscapes, theatres, and the human form are recurring motifs in your work. What do you believe these elements, when combined, reveal about the essence of existence and society?
Existential questions always were my favorite ones, but my concern is not precisely the essence of existence and society, but more the relationship between them, the action and reaction of each of these entities upon each other, and the way they shape the atmosphere around them. This creates my reality; the interaction of these elements makes the combination unique to me. This process doesn’t begin with a fact, but what it reveals depends on the creator’s reality. Each episode of life completes a piece of the puzzle of our collective existence; at least, this is the primary function I expect from an art piece.
ZH: Your work often oscillates between the macro—the vastness of urban expanses—and the micro—the detailed intimacy of human subjects. How do you navigate these two scales in a single frame?
This navigation only happens when thinking about a project and developing the idea; micro/macro is the outcome of this process. I constantly change the scale to understand the environment. In an isolated state, a hand consists of lines, a unique form of each finger, joints, bones, and fingernails, and all of these define how I hold an object, move it, and utilize it. It describes how I communicate with the world: The hands that comb the hair of a beloved, the ones who pull the trigger of a gun, the ones that reach and hold others as a support, the ones who push a button to launch a missile attack on a nation, in this isolated state, hands are the most iconic objects in the world, but when we look at them as part of a body then the relation to arms, the way they move to perform a function, to transfer an emotion to another body, become a part, of series of movements, coherent and in rhythm with the whole. If we keep the frame but change the focal length, a hand (subject) that holds an ashtray (object) becomes a part of a body (subject) that contains our hands (object). A room (subject) becomes the container of our body, doors, windows, etc. (objects), and we can endlessly apply this scenario. Everything in our world constantly changes its position from subject to object, container to contained, and vice versa. But the magic happens when we go further than this hierarchal view when we pan and change the frame till we see a window with a view of the city. Then, the window (an object in the room) becomes the container of the city, and the city, at the same time, is the container of the room. There is no micro/macro, there is no object/subject or contained/container, there is only our view, only how we decide to see and understand our surroundings, and at the end, we are the container and contained at the same time, the lover and beloved, and this is the dialect we have to deal with in this world.
ZH: Multidisciplinary in your approach, you tap into various mediums—from sculpture to illustration. How do these different mediums augment or challenge your primary vision?
Each medium fosters a specific methodology in using, forming/deforming materials; each needs the knowledge to utilize its potential. However, the most important factor in practicing diverse mediums is their heterogeneity, the different characteristics and views they provide. Multidisciplinary is not only about the ability to use different mediums but to think with them, the same way humans utilize languages. When I think in Persian, I have a different experience and view of the world than English, French, or German. The same mechanism exists in different mediums. In a way, everything is language, a way to think, communicate, exist, and express this existence.
ZH: Where do you balance an architect’s cerebral intent and a photographer’s intuitive gaze in your visual storytelling?
As I mentioned, architecture and photography are both languages and communication methods. Celebrity and intuitions somehow exist in both. It depends on the project: Architecture often starts with a fast sketch, an idea (intuitive), and sometimes with research, which leads to general lines of the project, then back to research and from there to design again. In photography, there is a need to study the subject first, whether it’s a sculpture, a face, a theatre, or a building. I must first observe how the subject should be represented, what exactly I want to show or don’t, and how and when to be neutral or provocative!
But to answer your question, the balance happens before the final image. I have to imagine the result before visualizing it and put myself in the audience’s place, even briefly, to have different reactions in mind. There is always this back-and-forth process going on in my mind. I start the visualization process only when I see the lines, patterns, shadows, and colors in my mind. The balance needs to happen inside; otherwise, it will never come to life or reach the outer world. This is a serious challenge that I have always had to deal with and will have to deal with.
ZH: Artists often speak of ‘critical moments’ or ‘epiphanies’ that propel their work into new directions. Have there been such pivotal instances that have reshaped your photographic journey?
Of course, as an Iranian, I have experienced many instances of such potential. Iranians have been living in chaos for the last 100 years. But after the regime change of 1979, specifically, we had to live a double life, creating masks to be someone else outside the boundaries of our home. This is my biggest life incident, driving my thoughts, shaping my world, and creating complexity in my work.
Being in this specific situation created an infinite source of events. As I change physically and intellectually, like anything else, I discover more and go deeper into this source, each time with a different perception. For 32 years, I felt like an immigrant in my “home” country, Iran, and facing this reality was my biggest pivotal point as a being and as an artist.
ZH: Looking to the future, as both the world and art continually evolve, where do you see your photography in this ever-changing mosaic?
Well, first, we should define “the future.” Is it tomorrow, in 10 years, 100 years, or 1000 years, and will we survive the poly-crisis as a species? If we go back in time, in the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci was an architect, painter, sculptor, theorist, engineer, and scientist. These disciplines gradually separated as our knowledge of our surroundings expanded until the 20th century when we could only be one thing; otherwise, it would’ve been considered a failure, an unsuccessful endeavor without a clear goal. This mindset still exists and lives as strong as modernism among us. We’re reaching a point in history where we can be many things again. The tools and mediums we use to communicate with the world shouldn’t and will not be the only basis for categorization anymore. Photography is a tool for me, just as a microscope is for a biologist.
So, it has already changed for me from a passion to a job, study, and research, and from there to a tool. It will probably change again, but this profoundly depends on the future “me” and the person I will become.
In collaboration with ZH media
Interview by Ali Shahrokhi
Photo Cover | The Kitchen – Hassan Madjooni