People I met in Iran

Livia Chan takes us to meet the people of Iran in her 88 series – People I met.

About a year ago, I picked up quite a serious camera and have not put it down since.

During this time, I feel my photographic vision has changed. My goal now is to try capture what I see, whether it be beauty, a look, a moment or a story to share with others.

This is a collection of some of my portraits and stories from my travels around Iran.


During the 1960s, nearly 10% of the population in Iran was nomadic. Although this figure ­has dramatically decreased to 1.3%, it is estimated that there could still be as many as one million nomads in Iran, representing one of the largest Nomadic populations in the world.

There are many different nomadic tribes spread across Iran. The tribes have several different ethnic origins (Turks, Turkmans, Persians, Kurds, Lurs, Arabs and Baluchis), and speak a variety of languages.

07_Qashqai Nomad and the Zagros Mountains - Iran
Qashqai nomad and the Zagros Mountains – Iran
08_Hussein - Iran
Hussein – Iran

When I was in Iran, I was fortunate to stay with Hussein and his family who are from the nomadic Qashqai tribe. The Qashqai people are of Turkic origin and speak a dialect called Turki. In the summer months they stay in the cooler pastures around Shiraz, and in the winter they travel with their flocks to the warmer lands near the Persian Gulf.

Hussein and his family are almost completely self-sufficient. They make their own bread, eat their own fruit and vegetables, sell and use their sheep for meat, milk and cheese, and use the water from a nearby river. They told me occasionally they also produce rugs and sell them at the market; however, these were very time consuming to make.

Hussein has three daughters and two sons; however, the eldest two daughters were married and no longer living with them. They told me the eldest boy had just completed his Bachelors degree; the youngest girl who was 18 finished school a number of years ago.

I only took photos of the men in the family to comply with their wishes.

09_Qashqai Boy - Iran
Qashqai Boy – Iran
10_The Family Home - Iran
he Family Home – Iran
11_Portrait of a Nomad Shepherd - Iran
Portrait of a Nomad Shepherd – Iran
12_A Nomad Shepherd Chases his Herd - Iran
A Nomad Shepherd Chasses his Herd – Iran

It was by travelling from the north to the very south of the country that I fell in love with Iran. I spent hours and hours on the road, passing by gigantic rock mountains, herds of sheep and pastures. However, the further I ventured into the country the more unexpectedly beautiful everything became. Occasionally I would stop in a small town to stretch my legs, only to realize that the town had been in existence since the Silk Road and still has well preserved remnants of its former trade glory; or a detour to a cascade to change scenery would leave me dumbfounded by its beauty and secrecy from hordes of tourists.

I had similar experiences with my photos. While I was undoubtedly impressed by the major man-made and natural tourist attractions I saw, it was often the accidental encounters that I had with people that left the most lasting impression.

13_A Shepherd on the Road from Persepolis - Iran
A Shepherd on the Road from Persepolis – Iran

This portrait was taken somewhere along the road from Persepolis. He was listening to Persian music on his mobile phone as he called his sheep back from the road. It was mid-September and extremely hot, but he did not complain.

14_A Bandari Fisherman - Qeshm Island Geopark - Iran
A Bandari Fisherman –  Qeshm Island Geopark, Iran
15_Refugee Mother and her Child - Isfahan, Iran
Refugee Mother and her Child – Isfahan, Iran

I was at a famous bridge along the Zayandeh River when I met this refugee mother and her four-year-old son from Afghanistan. Iran has one of the largest refugee populations in the world, the vast majority are Afghani. The government estimates that there almost one million registered Afghani refugees, and as many as 1.5 – 2 million unregistered Afghanis in Iran.

This photo essay was put together by Livia Chan.

Find out more about Livia’s work ~
Instagram: @chanchan_ontheroad

Photo by Farzad Mohsenvand on Unsplash

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