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Abbas (Persian: عباس ) (born in 1944) is an Iranian photographer known for his photojournalism in Biafra, Vietnam and South Africa in the 1970s, and for his extensive essays on religions in later years. He was a member of Sipa from 1971 to 1973, a member of Gamma (agency) from 1974 to 1980, and joined Magnum Photos in 1981.
Abbas, an Iranian transplanted to Paris, has dedicated his photographic work to the political and social coverage of the developing southern nations. Since 1970, his major works have been published in world magazines and includes wars and revolutions in Biafra, Bangladesh, Ulster, Vietnam, the Middle East, Chile, Cuba, and South Africa with an essay on apartheid.
From 1978 to 1980, he photographed the revolution in Iran, and returned in 1997 after a 17 years voluntary exile. His book iranDiary 1971-2002 (Autrement 2002) is a critical interpretation of its history, photographed and written as a personal diary.
From 1983 to 1986, he traveled in Mexico, photographing the country as if he were writing a novel. An exhibition and a book, Return to Mexico, journeys beyond the mask (W.W.Norton 1992), which includes his travel diaries, help him define his aesthetics in photography.
From 1987 to 1994, he photographed the resurgence of Islam from the Xinjiang to Morocco. His book and exhibition Allah O Akbar, a journey through militant Islam (Phaidon 1994) exposes the internal tensions within Muslim societies, torn between a mythical past and a desire for modernization and democracy. The book draws special attention after the September 11 terror attacks.
When the year 2000 became a landmark in the universal calendar, Christianity is the symbol of the strength of Western civilization. Faces of Christianity, a photographic journey (A.Abrams 2000) and a touring exhibit, explored this religion as a political, a ritual and a spiritual phenomenon.
From 2000 to 2002 he worked on Animism. In our world defined by science and technology, why do irrational rituals make a strong come-back? He abandoned this project on the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist action in New York.
His book, In Whose Name? The Islamic World after 9/11 (Thames and Hudson 2009), is a seven years quest within 16 countries : opposed by governments who hunt them mercilessly, the jihadists lose many battles, but are they not winning the war to control the mind of the people, with the "creeping islamisation" of all Muslim societies?
From 2008 to 2010 Abbas travelled the world of Buddhism, photographing with the same skeptical eye for his book "Les Enfants du lotus, voyage chez les bouddhistes" (De la Martinière 2011). In 2011 he began a similar long-tem project on Hinduism which he concluded in 2013.
Abbas is presently working on a long-term project on Judaism.
About his photography Abbas writes:
« My photography is a reflection, which comes to life in action and leads to meditation. Spontaneity – the suspended moment – intervenes during action, in the viewfinder. A reflection on the subject precedes it. A meditation on finality follows it, and it is here, during this exalting and fragile moment, that the real photographic writing develops, sequencing the images. For this reason a writer’s spirit is necessary to this enterprise. Isn’t photography « writing with light »? But with the difference that while the writer possesses his word, the photographer is himself possessed by his photo, by the limit of the real which he must transcend so as not to become its prisoner. »
- Iran, la révolution confisquée, Clétrat, Paris 1980
- Retornos a Oapan, FCE Rio de Luz, Mexico 1986
- Return to Mexico, W.W.Norton, New York 1992
- Allah O Akbar, voyages dans l’Islam militant, Phaidon, London 1994
- Allah O Akbar, a journey through militant Islam, Phaidon, London 1994
- Viaggio negli Islam del Mondo, Contrasto, Roma 2002
- Voyage en chrétientés, La Martiniere, Paris 2000
- Faces of Christianity, A.Abrams, New York 2000
- Glaube-liebe-hoffnung, Knesebeck, Munchen 2000
- IranDiary 1971-2002, Autrement, Paris 2002
- IranDiario 1971-2005, Sagiattore, Milano 2006
- Abbas, I Grandi Fotografi di Magnum, Hachette, Milano 2005
- Sur la Route des Esprits, Delpire, Paris 2005
- The children of Abraham, (exhibition catalogue), Intervalles, Paris 2006
- In Whose Name?, Thames and Hudson, London 2009
- "Ali, le Combat", Editions Sonatines, Paris 2011
- "Les Enfants du lotus, voyage chez les bouddhistes", De la Martinière, Paris 2011
- 1972: Ganvie People, Falomo, Nigeria
- 1977: Retrospective, Galerie Litho, Tehran; Ce jour là, Galerie FNAC, Paris
- 1977: Le reportage d'agence, Rencontres de la photographie, Arles
- 1980: Iran, the revolution, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art ; Darvazeh Ghar mosque, Tehran; Fundacao Cultural, Rio de Janeiro
- 1982: Citizen of the Third World, Photographer’s Gallery, London; Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, G.B.
- 1983: Retrospective, Consejo de Fotogragia, Mexico
- 1984: Retrospective, Galerie ARPA, Bordeaux, France
- 1986: Votez pour Moi, Galerie Magnum, Paris
- 1991: Retrospective, Imagina, Almeria, Espana
- 1992: Return to Mexico, Mexico Cultural Center, Paris; Maison pour Tous, Calais
- 1994: Retornos a Mexico, Centro Nacional de la Fotografia, Mexico
- 1999: Islamies, Place Royale, Brussels
- 1999: Islamies, Arab World Institute, Paris
- 1999: Chrétiens, House of Photography, Moscou
- 1999: Chrétiens, Eberhardskirche, Stuttgart
- 1999: Christians, Centre cultural français, Seoul, Korea
- 2002: Iran, the revolution, The Grey Gallery, New York
- 2002: Viaggio negli Islam del mondo, Palazzo Vecchio, Firenze, Italia
- 2002: Visiones de l’Islam, la Caixa, Tarragona, Madrid, Malaga, Orense, Espana
- 2002: IranDiary, Visa in Perpignan, France
- 2003: Visiones de l’Islam, la Caixa, Girona, Granada, Pamplona and Palma de Mallorca, Espana
- 2004: Iran, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
- 2004: Resurgence of Shias, Visa in Perpignan, France
- 2004: Ya Saddam, Noorderlicht, Leeuwarden, Hollande
- 2004: Islams, The United Nations, New York
- 2005: Sur la Route des Esprits, La Chambre Claire, Paris
- 2006: The Children of Abraham, Nobel Peace Center, Oslo
- 2006: : Islams and Shias, Vicino/Lontano, Udine, Italia
- 2007: The Children of Abraham, Groningen and Amsterdam, Holland
- 2008: The Children of Abraham, Institut Français de Fès, Morocco
- 2008: Jardin Botanique, Brussels, Belgium
- 2009: In Whose Name?, Magnum Gallery, Paris
- 2009: Visa, Perpignan
- 2009: Gallerie Polka, Paris
- 2011: Abbas, 45 Years in Photography, National Museum of Singapore
- 2014: Faces of Christianity, Photography Festival, Guernsey