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Interview with Kosoof, a leading Iranian Photo Blogger

Arash Ashoorinia is a leading photo blogger whose blog, Kosoof, won the Reporters Without Borders prize in the BOBs (Best of the Blogs) competition organized by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Arash's photos have been published all over the world in publications and on web sites such as the Washington Post and Global Voices. Global Voices‘ Hamid Tehrani recently had the chance to talk with Arash.

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HT: Can you introduce yourself and your blog to us?

AA: My name is Arash Ashoorinia. I am 26 years old and I have started doing photography nearly 6 years ago. I started my blog in 2004. Before I started my photoblog, I designed web sites and after I started my photoblog, I left designing. When I started Kosoof I just wanted to have a simple photoblog to present some samples of my work. Photos from nature, urban spaces and the places we live in. I wanted to show the things and events which others do not see or pay attention to, so I sometimes cover events with news value. Because so much of the news and images have to do with censorship in Iran.

HT: How you arrange to be always at the right time at the right place to take the photo?

AA: Other photographers don't come to the special events because they are not interested in these events. They do not think about the events like I do, and do not have a place to publish their photos(because here we don’t have a free media) or simply do not dare to come to risky events.

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HT: Do you think the traditional media respect blogs’ or photoblogs’ copyright in general?

AA: Not always! Generally I didn’t earn money from Kosoof. Many people even cut the Kosoof’s logo at the bottom of the photo & didn’t cite the photographer’s name or describe the event. This behavior is very common on Iranian web and news sites. Prestigious web sites e-mail and ask for my permission and I don’t remember I have ever said no to any of these web sites or asked for any payment.

HT
: Is there any event that you regret not having been present for?

AA: Yes! I regret so many times. Practising photography in Iran is like passing The Great Wall of China! And very often it’s not possible in many cases.

HT: Your photos have been published worldwide. Has your work been respected? Have you faced any danger?

AA: You don’t need any permission for your writings and if your web site blocked by the authorities, you can use proxies to bypass the filters and continue your activities. Blogs provide a way to have relationships and contacts with the world, both with your countrymen and with people from all over the universe. But certainly there are some dangers in Iranian society. We had some cases where the government arrested some bloggers because of what they wrote on their weblogs. And as a photoblogger, you may face various problems and unexpected events in the course of doing your job.

HT: Do photos or other multimedia products have a strong presence in Iranian blogs or the blogs are still text-dominated?

AA: Photos & other multimedia are present in Iranian blogs, but they don’t seem serious. Many write weblogs very regularly and think that this is an important or even effective job, but few are producing professional photos or real journalism in the Iranian blogsphere. Generally, photoblogs tend to be more entertainment-oriented or professional photographers post photos which were previously published in the newspapers or news agencies as a sample of their work. Generally, in only a few cases do people put new photos on their blogs.

HT: Any project, idea or comment to share with GV readers?

AA: Perhaps Global voices can start a section called “World Image”, so the photos can talk with the targets. In many cases, photos are more effective than thousand words & can show the reality better than words.
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