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On Exhibit: Iranian L.A.

By Bethania Palma Markus

Published Apr 1, 2010 10:00 AM


Farhad Parsa photographed Shahab Sharifian, author of A Cell's Opportunity, holding a family photo from his childhood.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

That's how UCLA graduate student Amy Malek M.A. '09, a doctoral candidate in anthropology, decided to tell the story of her fellow Iranian-American Angelenos as curator and project director for the upcoming photographic exhibit opening June 6 at the Fowler Museum.

"Iranian-American in Los Angeles" showcases the work of four documentary photographers over a four-month period. "In the media, we always tend to see Iranians in moments of trauma or celebration," Malek says. "Major goals were to show and document everyday life, create an archive and encourage the Iranian-American community to take up this task and be in charge of their own documentation."

Her idea in part stemmed from moving from the East Coast to Southern California — home to the world's largest expatriate Iranian population. "When I moved here, I noticed that a lot of the stereotypes that existed about Iranians in Los Angeles weren't true," she says. "On the East Coast there are ideas about Los Angeles in general that goes for Iranians as well."


Parsa photographed mother and homemaker Cristina Freeman, born to a Swedish mother and Iranian father, rocking out.

When many think of L.A., they may think of Hollywood glitz, glamour and superficiality — and when it comes to Iranian Angelenos, "there is a stereotype that they drive expensive cars, wear a lot of black and only hang out with each other," Malek notes.

While she acknowledges certain historical and cultural factors have played a role in an overall high educational and professional success rate in the Iranian-American community, Malek hopes the exhibit will help dispel myths and show the broad diversity that exists as well.

Each photographer — Farhad Parsa, Arash Saedinia, Parisa Taghizadeh and Ramin Talaie — interprets his or her own experiences of L.A., while recording those of their second-generation Iranian-American subjects. Captions for the photos were written by Malek.

The show opens with a two-panel conference. One panel of scholars will discuss the Iranian Diaspora and visual anthropology. The other will be composed of the photographers and Malek speaking about the project. The conference will be followed by an exhibit tour and reception.

Iranian-American in Los Angeles. June 6-Aug. 22, Fowler Museum. Free and open to the public. For more information, call (310) 825-4361, e-mail, or log on to