Photo: 5 Things To Know About The Photographer Abbas
French-Iranian photojournalist Attar Abbas, who died in 2018, is known for covering conflicts across the globe and photographing the world's religions. Here are 5 things to know about this iconic Magnum photographer who said he 'wrote with light.
1- He captured the world in black and white
Attar Abbas, born in Iran in 1944, had found his vocation very early as he wanted to become a photographer since the age of 12. In his biography, he said he was 'born a photographer'. He also confided that the Algerian war, which he had witnessed as a child, had made him decide to become a journalist.
It was in 1968 that this Iranian emigrated to Algeria and then to France and began his career as a photojournalist during the Olympic Games in Mexico. From then on, he never ceased to take his lens to all continents, to cover conflicts or to report on religions, a subject that fascinated him.
At his death in 2018, the man who is considered one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century has left us hundreds of shots in black and white. It was indeed in monochrome that this perfectionist of light depicted the contradictions of our world, with a wide open eye and mind.
2- He was much more than a photojournalist
Of the photographer Abbas, who wanted to be called by his first name, posterity has mostly remembered striking shots of the Iranian revolution.
For two years, he covered this revolution in its entirety, first enthusiastic and then disappointed by the turn of events. In 1980, he published the book Iran, the confiscated revolution, a work that would prevent him from returning to his native country for some time.
Although he published his images in international magazines to cover political and social conflicts in Biafra, Bangladesh, the Middle East, Chile, and during apartheid in South Africa, this iconic Magnum Agency photographer was much more than just a photojournalist.
The journalistic rigor of his shots does not prevent a deep humanity and visual research in the geometry of lines, contrast and light. By the aesthetics and the classic construction of his images, always in black and white, he is in line with Robert Capa (another great name of the Magnum agency and of war photoreporting).
3- He photographed the world's religions
Abbas is also known for his work on different religions. He who was an atheist was one of the first photographers to witness the renaissance of Islam around the world. From 1987 to 1994 he traveled to more than 29 countries and four continents and brought back a book on 'militant Islam'.
Following this first reportage, he continued his exploration of beliefs in the world, sifting through various religions with his lens and his skeptical eye, from Christianity to Hinduism, through animism, Buddhism and Judaism.
4- He left us a documentary as a legacy
If you want to know more about this great name in photography, who covered the biggest conflicts from the 1970s to the present day and worked on the world's major religions for more than 30 years, you should know that a documentary was dedicated to him shortly before his passing.
In this film by director Kamy Pakdel, entitled Abbas by Abbas, the photojournalist confides in the threshold of his life. This film was shot when the photographer was already ill and he was able to give the closing shot even though he was no longer there at the time of editing.
This documentary is structured around 10 themes: surprise, violence, fanaticism, humiliation, pain, chaos, derision, spirituality, beauty and sadness. For each theme, the photographer proposed 10 photos that constitute his vision of the theme. He has thus selected for posterity a total of 100 pictures.
5- Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to him in its latest album
In 2023, Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to this great Iranian photographer in its new album for press freedom. This is the first time that Abbas' black and white images are gathered in a single album.
This album sold for €12.50 is an opportunity to rediscover the universe of this humanist photographer while supporting the association's actions in favor of freedom of expression.