Persia From Above: Never-Seen-Before Aerial Photographs of Iran
Text by Ryan Bradley; Photographs courtesy of Georg Gerster / Phaidon Press
In 1976, before the revolution and the fall of the shah, when Iran was a rapidly modernizing but still ancient—and open, and safe—place, pioneering aerial photographer Georg Gerster traveled there.
He brought with him a letter, detailing his dream to photograph Persia from above, to capture the old and the new, the contours of the desert, and where it met the great cities and mountains. He gave his letter to the Empress Farah, who granted the photographer unprecedented access to her country.
Gerster made over 100 flights totaling 300 hours. He took thousands of photographs: of desert ruins and crowded ski resorts, lush gardens and archaeological wonders (ziggurats, citadels, circular cities). This two year period, he wrote, was, “A gift received only once in a lifetime.” But then the revolution, the fall, and Gerster’s project was put on hold; his photos never published. Until now.
Paradise Lost: Persia from Above (Phaidon Press; $60), just printed last month, is a magic carpet ride of a book. The images (there are 100) are beautiful and mysterious, illuminated by wonderful descriptions of the regions. One especially good caption reads: “In Baluchestan, Anguran is the center of the Baluch people, who build their cigar-and-tortoise-shaped dwellings from palm matting.” You are transported to a dream country, one sealed off and lost to those of us in the west. You want to go there. Immediately.There is poetry in the book, too. And this one struck a chord:
beyond the city
belongs to me
a place of beauty
for it reminds me
- Nat Geo Expeditions
of the Friend
He is, there
is a place of beauty.
— Sa’di (13th century)