Sistan and Baluchistan Province is Iran’s largest province, located in the south-east of the country. Bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, it was once considered the country’s breadbasket. In historical texts, it is described as a verdant region with an abundance of water and rich, fertile soil that has nurtured a civilisation dating back 5,000 years. Today, it is one of the driest areas in the country as a result of unprecedented changes in weather patterns. 30 % of the population has left Sistan and Baluchistan Province to escape the unemployment and despair caused by water shortages.
Drought is a huge ecological, economic and social problem for Iran. And it has long been a focus of Hashem Shakeri’s work. Shakeri is a 34-year-old Iranian press photographer living in Germany, whose career has already been crowned with prestigious awards such as the Ian Parry Scholarship, the Lucas Dolega Award, the UNICEF Photo of the Year Award and the Getty Images Scholarship. His images depicting the effects of the pandemic and lockdown in Iran have received worldwide acclaim and were published in the prestigious The New Yorker.
His pictures of drought stand out for their distinctive colours, meticulous composition and sharp framing, depicting scenes and landscapes that appear almost lunar. Dry clarity. An arid glow in stark contrast to the lush, green imagery conjured up by the texts and historical accounts that spoke of this province as a new Eden.
Shakeri applies this same distinctive graphic style in another series on show, featuring his work on the new satellite cities emerging from the desert to house Iranians forced to leave Tehran because of the soaring price of land and increasingly difficult living conditions. Here, the almost blinding light helps give the scenes he photographs a chimera-like atmosphere borrowed from a quasi-dystopian form of science fiction. As if to foreshadow an irreal future that is not really a future at all: an age in which people sow cities, like fields of wheat, everywhere they go.