Over the past decade, the Amsterdam-based Iranian artist Rahi Rezvani has been quietly enchanting a growing, but already impressive following of admirers and collaborators. Rezvani’s long and varied list of collaborators spans across creative industries, from interior design to performing arts. Rezvani captured images of the traveling theatre production The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, which culminated in an exhibition at New York’s Avenue Armory. In addition to his fine arts endeavors, for the past two years Mr. Rezvani has also been working with fashion dignitary Donatella Versace on creation of limited edition books for Atelier Versace’s Haute Couture collection.
When we caught up with him for this interview, Rezvani had been gearing up for his upcoming show in Milan. The exhibition is to be hosted by designer Marcel Wanders’ moooi at this year’s Salone del mobile (April 14th – 19th).
In the past, you have said you do not like to be called a photographer, why is that?
Ever since digital photography opened the floodgates so that anyone can buy a DSLR and start taking pictures, the terms “photography” and “photographer” have lost their meaning. Of course, anyone can take pictures now, but that doesn’t mean that they can capture the same kind of energy, or beauty that the greats like Richard Avedon did… there is simply no magic in most of what you see [in photography] today. This loss in photography is being compensated for, by making the field increasingly more academic and dependent on contrived conceptualism. I am academically trained myself, but I reject their clichéd emphasis on concept and narrative.
To me, narrative storytelling falls under the domain of film. In my opinion, a photograph first and foremost should be able to stand on its own as a singular frame and be able to communicate its emotional content simply as a strong visual. Maybe this is because I started as a painter and graphic designer before coming to photography, but to me it’s very clear that a photographer’s job is to use lighting and his technical expertise with the camera to create a magical composition. Anyone can recognize this real form of photography as soon as they see it; it evokes the same kind of “chemical” reaction in your gut as you would get standing in front of a Rembrandt painting. The audience shouldn’t have to be sold an elaborate story before hand, that’s just lazy, and it’s not photography.
What would you like to be viewed as then?
Just a visual artist I suppose… someone who creates images. I know I just gave you a very passionate critique of the field, but frankly I’m not that obsessed with my title.
What’s your opinion about the relationship between Art and Fashion?
If we want, to be honest, there are very few areas or figures in the fashion industry today that we can clearly consider as having any affinity with art and artistic creation. In general something that is fast, trendy, and commercial won’t have anything to do with real art. Haute Couture is the exception because everything about it is meticulous and thoughtful. I always find real inspiration Haute Couture because it already has the emotional content and the capacity to create magic.
You have worked with a lot of different types of designers in addition to other artists, what do you think it difference between an Artists and their process vs. Designers?
I think it’s hard to generalize because it is very much about the individual artists and designers in question. In general, the fundamental difference I see is that an artist has the liberty to focus only on his or her vision. Whereas a designer has to be very mindful of the client’s wishes and needs. But again, there are exceptions to this generalization: We have so called artists that churn out work on demand for the market, and designers who only look to their intuition.
If not Black and White, then what other duotone?
Grey and dark grey.
What keeps you working?
It’s mainly the thrill of the process. I spend a lot of time thinking about a photo shoot before it happens. I dream up all these visions and atmospheres that I want to create. When it gets to the actual shoot some of those pan out beautifully and some of them don’t come to life, but the most exciting part is the unexpected moments that happen during a shoot and lead you to discover whole new realities you never even thought about. Sometimes one of these magical moments has happened but I won’t notice it until the postproduction when it suddenly presents itself to me. I guess I’m addicted to the discovery.
Do you remember your childhood? What is your earliest memory?
The most vivid memories from my childhood involve my father and rock music. I remember every weekend we would wake up to the sound of my father’s LP players playing Pink Floyd or The Rolling Stones, we would go down and spend most of the day listening to his LPs.
What is one of your goals?
In all of my life, and through my entire body of work, if I can create just one image that will stand the test of time and says something about humanity as I experienced it, then I will have reached my most important goal in life.
Sounds like you care a lot about your legacy; what do you want your legacy to be?
Well, yes I guess you could say that I care more about what I’ll leave behind than I do about being en vogue and popular now. In fact, if the day ever comes when I’m “too popular” I’ll be very worried. I don’t think any person, let alone any artist, who has real integrity, can ever be unanimously loved and adored by everyone. People either love my work or hate it, and I prefer it that way; to me controversy is a sign of authenticity. To answer your question, I want people to remember me for being stubborn about my vision and refusing to follow.
So what is your definition of an ideal life?
To be truly free and not enslaved by any system, industry, or way of thinking – that would be an ideal life.
You can follow Rahi Rezvani on Instagram @rahirezvanistudio
Arts & Culture Editor
Abbas is a Design Strategist based in New York. You can follow him on Instagram @abbasjamali.