Street Shooting in Iran by Nate Robert

Street Shooting in Iran

by Nate Robert – See his blog HERE

Hi Steve,

I wanted to make you aware of my journey to photograph the streets of many countries around the world. Very recently, I spent a month in Iran. A country that is very misunderstood, and quite mysterious to most. Of course, what I found is that street shooting in Iran, is just like anywhere else on Earth. Why? Because as the song goes – people are people. It needs to be said that Iranians are the most friendly and welcoming people I have encountered, and I’ve been to 37 countries so far (and counting), all in the name of cultural experience. The people of Iran hold no animosity towards Americans, or Westerners in general – they really do see the issues of governments as totally beyond the control of the citizens – whether that be their own government, or the US government. We’re all human, and we’re all in this together, right?

I’m traveling the world indefinitely, and at this point, I’m only using a single camera, with a single lens. The Fuji X-Pro 1, and the 18mm F2. This combination is in my opinion, the best travel camera set-up available. I’ve gone from a Nikon DSLR, to a Leica M6, to the Fuji. When you’re traveling, you need a light-weight setup – so that rules out DLSR’s. I love film, especially black and white, but it’s a chore to constantly be finding places that will develop my work when I’m in a foreign place. A digital Leica M would be nice, but it’s out of my budget. In my opinion, the IQ of the Fuji, combined with the shutter dial/aperture ring/exposure compensation adjustments and the optical viewfinder, make it the best camera for me. Of course, the X-Pro is not without quirks, and not for everyone.

I found it difficult to shoot street photography at first, not knowing what photographic regulations I needed to adhere to, nor knowing how the people would react to me. However, I slowly got into the groove, and a month later I had a small portfolio of images that I can look back at again and again, to remember such an incredible country.

If any of your readers would like to follow the journey, I think they would find it interesting – one lens, one camera, one world. I’m blogging as I go, and try to do a new set of street photos every few weeks or so.

Keep on doing your thing Steve, we all appreciate it. (Thank’s Nate)!

Nate Robert














  1. Hi Nate.
    i think i might be the only Iranian follower of Steve’s awesome blog!
    i’m happy that you’ve joined the many visitors that had their views changed about this place… yet again, it’s sad to see that your pictures are still so stereotypical. why is that?
    i mean… in your collection here, we have the camel, which as you’ve seen is very, VERY hard to find in the cities; and that graffiti thingy on the wall… you know what i mean?

  2. I loved this post, and I’m going to follow Nate’s blog now.

    There truly must be something magical, wondrous, and good about a place if it gets so singled out by a media that glorifies violence, objectification of women, whorish and juvenile behavior, and “preventative” war on behalf of an ersatz colonial entity built on fraud, U.S. taxpayer money, a big book of tribal fiction, bribery, blackmail and coercion of politicians, and stolen land.

    Words and threats attributed to the president were never spoken, yet are taken as gospel truth by brainwashed incredulous dolts programmed by Hollywood magic and cattle pens known as schools, while the true terrorists use Predator drones to bomb innocent villagers in Afghanistan and Pakistan and immolate beseiged Palestinians with white phosphorous.

    We should all confront our assumptions, and question absolutely anything coming out of that magic box in the living room. The time for a visit to Iran has come.

  3. We travelled overland through Iran extensively in 1998. (I photographed the whole 18 month trip on Velvia 50) I have to say, of all the countries that we went to on that trip (24 in all) Iran was the friendliest. Media portrayal of The Middle East in general is horribly skewed to perpetuate many of the post 9/11 justifications for interfering in other sovereign nations business.
    Iranians are generally educated, inquisitive, generous and hospitable to a tee. I would feel as safe in Iran as any other country in The World. As anywhere, respect the local customs, dress appropriately and you will be shown respect in return.

    When in Esfahan, we were approached by a group of heavily armed police. The conversation went like this –

    Them – You are American?
    Us – No, English
    Them (Big smiles on faces) Ahhhh, Michael Owen, he is a great footballer!
    Them – Telling how proud they were that Iran had just beaten The USA in a World Cup game.

    It does not matter where you are on this planet, we ALL have way more common ground than we have differences. Let’s just respect others and leave all the nonsense to our governments. Bunch of power hungry muppets the lot of them…

  4. This is great! My husband and I were in Iran in 2008 for a 14 day segue right through the centre of the country, and we agree with everything you say. Iranians are so friendly and welcoming, and while we were there we observed no animosity towards Westerners. I observed the dress code, and I know I looked like I was in fancy dress. We were obviously western. We caused a great deal of interest. People tooted at us and waved at us from their cars. We were constantly asked (in perfect English learned we were told in night school) where we were from although there was a lot of interest in Australia, we were travelling with Americans, and everyone wanted to meet them and shake their hands! Even in the Friday Mosque we were asked “Have you any Americans with you?” We stayed in an ancient hotel in Yadz. When we came down to breakfast, there were flags for our countries on our tables. An American Flag in Iran. Not what you might expect! I would love to go back.

  5. Nice pictures. Kind of a view into the future of any country that gets taken over by religion. (Same people as everywhere else, only being told how to dress.) Why all Blank and White? Some of the pictures, it seems to me would have a completely different feel (for better or worse) in color.

    The last picture, for example, was perfect in B&W, but the “Statue of Liberty” graffiti shot is interesting to me, and seems to lack some context in B&W.

  6. Very inspiring journey. 37 countries!!! Amazing. I applaud you for your honesty and humility on your approach to photography. Cool pictures, particularly like those where there’s a deep perspective.

    Thanks to Nat for sharing, and to Steve for portraying his work. Very cool!

  7. Get out of Iran while you can. You are at high risk of ending in a dirty jail with no rights permanently. On top of everything their stress level is high. Don’t forget their president has promised to end the existence of Israel and also the big Satan (aka the USA)

    • Hi, that is what I was told before I went to Iran – don’t go, you’ll get arrested, etc etc.

      Sorry to tell you this, but it’s all lies, perpetuated by your government, and a mainstream media who has an agenda to support these lies.

      The truth is very, very different. Iran is a safe and welcoming place to be – much more safe than the USA.

      • They execute homosexuals there. Their president said they do not “have” that phenomenom there. They have killed 5,000 Americans with their weapons. They arm terrorists worldwide.

        • M4/3….I think your use of the word “they” is missing the point!

          Nate is not having dinner each night with “they” and discussing what he and “they” can do to make the world a worse place or how “they”can destroy Israel and the United States.

          He has by passed “they” and gone straight to engage with “the majority” of normal people…!

          “They” could lock him up….but it does not mean he is going to be ignorant of how “the majority” live and how they represent what the heart of Iran is.

          Great photos and more importantly great experience Nate. I’ve just joined your blog so look forward to the updates.

          Envious, yes……but I have three daughters, healthy and have done my travel/backpack thing many years ago so only just a little envious!

        • Nate , conversely it can be said that “they” execute (shoot) babies in the USA.
          Get a grip man! You are talking about one of the oldest cultures in the world after Hinduism !

  8. May interest you to know that Andre Agassi is a Zoroastrian of Iranian descent.
    Freddy Mercury ( Faredoon Balsara) was a Zoroastrian Parsi from Bombay,India.
    Famous conductor Zubin Mehta is also a Zoroastrian Parsi from Bombay,India.
    Sir Cliff Richards (Harry Rodger Webb) hails from Lucknow, India too.
    Vivian Leigh (Vivian Mary Hartley) is from Darjeeling, India.

  9. Would be interesting to hear more about your shooting experience in public spaces being a foreigner. In country like todays Iran I would be suprised if no civil or clad police didn`t approach you trying to ask a lot of question. Or maybe I`m happily mistaken and the camera touting tourists are now a common view over there.

    • Hey Stanis – I was never approached, at all, when taking photos. I was viewed by many police, indeed, I have photos of both police and army. This is not to say there are no problems at all, however, it is a wildly exaggerated aspect of being a tourist in Iran.

      As far as tourists go – there really isn’t many at all. Few enough, that when you see another tourist, you stop and say hi. This happened only a few times over the course of a month. The people themselves, love being photographed – more than any people I have ever come across.

      • Thanks Nate. Good to hear it.I was twice in Iran but it was during Shah reign. I do agree that iranian people were very hospitable and generous.

    • Hey Paul, street cred! I’ll take it 😉

      Re: B&W – I have no problems working with colour, as a quick check of my blog will show you. However, I just love B&W street photography/portraiture. I have a hard time expressing why this is the case – but at this stage in my photography life, it’s a preference I have. I think one of the main reasons is that I personally find that colour often (not always) distracts from the content of the photo. This is particularly applicable to street/portraiture. In any case, behind the scenes, I’m working towards being comfortable with presenting colour shots…we’ll see what happens there. 😉

    • Thanks Giovanni. If you can’t tell – I really don’t like spending time post-processing! Fortunately, this is the easiest thing to go back and do again. If anyone has any workflow/PP tips, I’m all ears…

      • I think nobody likes spending too much time for post processing, but if you’re willing to improve your digital b&w results then I guess there is not other way…there is not a magic formula that works for anyone, but b&w is not a matter of taste and of course studying from the masters of b&w photography and aiming at achieving their results is theoretically a good starting point.

  10. Well Well WEll ,….:)
    i have to admit , last year i was in IRAN for about 1 month (and i dont know if accidentally 😛 the very same place as mr.nate!!!!) , that city is called “Isfahan or Esfehan ” by the locals and is a kinda really old or may call Ancient city with so many Antiquities and antique placed such as “33 poal” which is translated to 33 bridges ! (4th and 9th pics above) but the BAD part was , sadly there was only GSM radio frequency support (for cell phones) , hence! i thought i just gonna use my Nokia N95 for there and sadly (again) i forgot to bring my film cameras (though it was some years i didnt use them) , so the only camera available was the one on y old Nokia N95 ( the worst part is actually you can use any GSM supported (unlocked) device (cellphone) there i.e iphone and i just brought the fool N95) baaaaaahhhhh…
    any way the ppl were so good , friendly and welcoming , and after all we live under the same sky right! 🙂
    and about the pics i shot that month i have them , yeah though of bad quality (N95’s fault :P)
    AND about MR. Nate’s pics they are really Beautiful and Way Good combo (fujiX-pro1 and 35f2) , aaaaaand THANKS FOR Sharing…….:) 😉 😀 😛

    • It is certainly not an accident that both you and Nate went to Isfahan… Pics 4 and 9 look like the Khaju bridge, not the ’33’ (Si-o Se pol) bridge. If i remember correctly people like to go there and sing on Fridays because of the echo under those brick arches.

      • Oh Bendict – you’ve got me confused now! It certainly was either the Si-o Se, or the Khaju bridge, I just can’t remember which one! And yes, there were people singing, it was quite a beautiful scene.

      • THANKS,… 😉 and i believe its not an Accident Cuz Isfahan is a tourist City with a lot of antique things , so if you wana go visit iran , consider it the first city to go for (after their capital Tehran) , and about the pics (4 and 9) i dont know but they look more like 33 poal than “poal-e-khaju” (=khaju bridge) and about the singing thing i was not there on any Friday (to see the singing ppl) i was there only 3 days (and couple of hours) then went back “tehran” and “lahijan” and “karaj” but as my stay in there i saw most of the places as my suit place was in the middle of the city they called it “darvaz-e-dowlat” (translation = Government’s Gate)! , anyway have any one of ya tried the traditional ice cream there??? which is different from Traditional ice cream in “Shiraz” 😉 😀 🙂 super sweet and lots of colors at once LIKEed! it alot (especially the buttery and saffron with pistachio 🙂 😀 , … 😛 🙂 😀 😉

  11. What a nice collection of photos!

    Street photography of the US invariably reduces to similar cliches of either the destitute or young people growing up without much to do, and thus filling their time with wasted space.

    With a couple of exceptions, they look happier…!

    • Thanks HDS. I agree – they look happier! (especially when the shots are candid). I try my best not only to avoid cliches, but to represent a broad cross-section of society in my collections – rich, poor, young, old, male, female. Glad you enjoyed them.

    • Gary! I regularly think of HK – I’m sure to be back there in 2013 (well, as sure as I can be). Had a great time with you guys earlier this year. For anyone else reading this – Gary is an incredible photographer – go check his stuff if you haven’t already.

  12. Was a bit confused when I saw this come through in my email this morning, as I was sure I had already seen it before!!

    Been following Nate’s travels for about 2 or 3 months yet. Highly recommend subscribing to it, as the writing and images are both top notch.

  13. Great photos!
    About Iran – I have no problems with Iran. This a country with normal civils. But when the government says that it has only one target – to kill your civils and to destroy my country. And they kill civils. This is a country controlled by terror. It is not a normal or nice country. I’m very sorry but terrorists are not humans. They are uncivilized monsters.

  14. Well done Nate …
    I’m thrilled to read somone is traveling to places off the beaten path for most westerners. Many Middle Eastern countries do not allow the photographing of locals or public places. Good on you for getting out and exploring. The Iranians are sadly misunderstood by many of us Americans and happen to be extremely well educated and tollerant citizens. Especially the women.
    Sad our governments cannot work things out … or better … keep noses out of others business when we can’t afford our own problems much less others.
    Safe journies. I’m looking forward to reading your blog.
    Blue skies …

    • Hey KL – it really is off the beaten path for most travellers, which is such a shame. Iran is one of the best destinations on Earth. I agree with all your sentiments about the Iranians – they’re truly wonderful people. And yes, it’s sad that governments have such problems, making life that little bit more difficult for the citizens (in both the USA and Iran). Surely there’s higher priorities? In any case, thanks, and hope to see you around.

    • Cheers Khoa – I may take another look at the crop. From memory, this photo is currently uncropped, as I hate spending time in post! 😉

  15. Great images and sentiment, but I’m really surprised and glad they didn’t arrest you as being a spy with a camera, regardless of your stated intent at entry. Especially if you’re western and/or anglo. Similar to those enviro-tourists just hiking in the mountains a few years back whom were held and charged with espionage and threatened with a death sentence, and they weren’t even near any urban areas or facilities, (or were they spies, I can’t recall…?).
    I think you got lucky with who you met there, and more importantly, who you didn’t get seen by along your way.

    Stay safe. Keep blogging.

    • Dear jeffrey… its not what you think it is…
      actually i’ve been there (the very same place as nate) and there are police men (or officers) scouting (or just watching) the city , but no one will stop you or arrest you as a Spy in there (only Bcoz U R photographing), and yes the IRANIANs are always misunderstood (especially with Arabs , and no im not being Racist here but its something that is always happen , though there is a lot of similarities here and there specially in their Religious , but again there are more civilized ….Kinda 🙂 😀 😉

      • Ok, I’m happy to hear that about the common folk there. Too bad their top leader (at least) is a crazed egomaniac, though. Hope someone takes him out, and fast…..

        [I try to imagine whirled peas].

        • Totally agree with you… i afraid “crazed egomaniac” well suits their leader and yeah some1 should take him fast , beside there was cities in the north of iran that were so beautiful (i don’t like dirt and deserts) , lushness and all with really wet weather 1 of them called “Lahijan” (great cookies there 🙂 and there is another one Called “Masouleh” (and believe Me worth watching it then die for good) 😉 anyway there were really ancient building that were built upon each other mean ones yard is the other ones rooftop and its headed in the clouds Extremely Beautiful view , you should see for Urself if you have the time 😉 😀 🙂 😛

    • Thanks Jeff – as Danny says (PS, thanks Danny), it’s a very safe country – one of the safest I have ever visited. You are unlikely to have any troubles taking photos – I’ve had police approach me in Western countries and ask why I’m taking pictures of people on the streets, and yet, not a single issue in Iran. One photographer I met in Iran (a guy from Brazil), did tell me a story about being stopped by Police, he had to show them a quick flick through his memory card, but didn’t have any more trouble. I really think this aspect of Iran is quite overstated – and not that different from any other country.

  16. These are fantastic!!!!

    Finally something fresh to look at. I like the fact that you’re not afraid of taking shots of people when they are looking at you. It took me a while to get that comfort level. Great work and keep it up!

    • Thannks Mike! I consider myself a “beginner” at street photography, I’m just fortunate enough to get to learn in some rather exotic destinations. I’ll keep it up, as long as you do – deal?

  17. Great blog and great photos! I really like your one lens, one camera project and of course your writing, too. Your work and the experiences you share maybe opens some foreign places that suffer from bad propaganda as you explained us for Iran. Every place I visited, I experienced almost the same. Life on the streets often differs from tensions on the stage of politics. It’s completely human.


    • Thank you Martin for your kind words. Iran was such an eye-opener, I felt I needed to share it with the rest of the world. Take everything you have ever read or heard about Iran, and ignore it, the reality is quite different!

  18. Nat, beautiful pics, and I agree with you regarding the bad propaganda against the Iranians. One thing is the people, other the political differences. Great work, and I envy you of your travels. By the way great blog.

  19. Very nice photographs,
    I was touched by what you wrote about people being people,
    im just happy to see more people realize it…and when they will really let that thought set in is when we will realize that all of the wars that we have in our world is only the ideas and the makings of very few individuals who orchestrate conflicts in most of the human history

    • Thanks Frosti. I totally agree with you – it’s just a few powerful individuals that make life terrible for so many others. Travel is the best way to discover that people are indeed, just people.

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