‘I’m Not There’ by Saman Aghvami

Curated by: Samantha Wehbi
April 30th – May 24th, 2014
Opening Reception: Saturday, May 3rd, 2PM – 5PM

I’m Not There is a photographic project that explores the presence of nostalgic places, as memory and images, in the lives of those among the Iranian diaspora in Toronto who are unable to return to their homeland. The subjects of this photographic project are Iranians who have left their homeland for different reasons and at different times. Among the subjects are political dissidents, artists, gays, lesbians and religious minorities who were forced to flee because of persecution and, in some cases, threat of execution. This project will touch upon concepts and themes of exile and nostalgia for a home that is longed for but out of reach. As an Iranian living in Canada, Aghvami was compelled to delve into this topic, which spoke to him on a personal level. Moreover, his interest in Iran’s current politics was a strong motivation for him to think more deeply about the notion of exile and to commence this project.

I’m Not There is a series of environmental portraits of exiled Iranians in their Canadian homes, with an image projected onto them of a place in Iran that evokes nostalgia. The photographs aim to address the interconnection between two types of home: the physical one in which they currently live and the one that lives within them as memory. A handwritten text by each subject will accompany all the photographs. These images reflect Aghvami’s effort to depict intangible notions such as nostalgia and homesickness while indirectly making a political statement about the oppression that initiated these emotions.

I’m Not There is a Featured Exhibition for the Contact Photography Festival

Saman Aghvami has been a professional photographer since 2003, when he started working as a staff photographer for a prominent news agency (ISNA) in Iran, his country of birth. Before moving to Canada in 2011, Aghvami—who holds a BA in Photography—had covered social, political and sports events inside and outside of Iran. His work has appeared in numerous national Iranian newspapers, as well as in many international publications such as Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times and The Washington Post. His recent projects focus on notions of separation, exile and nostalgia.