1998 — student winner
Eric Grigorian (b. 1969 Tehran, Iran) at the age of nine moved to Los Angeles during the Iranian Revolution.
On completing his Bachelor's degree from SJSU in 1999, Eric Grigorian began his professional career shooting for the Los Angeles Daily news and eventually, in 2002, made the move to pursue a freelance career working for news magazines.
Clients include Time, Newsweek, US News, NY Times, and European news magazines and newspapers. He is based in Los Angeles and has been on assignments around the world.
He has received numerous photography awards - including the World Press Photo award in 2002.
He is represented by Polaris Images.
For nearly two decades, Americans have held preconceived notions about Iranian people and their culture. My proposal is aimed at dispelling those myths.
I will spend two months this summer in Iran, the country of my birth, photographing a culture and people who have repeatedly been portrayed in a negative light by the western media. I want to photograph everyday life on the streets and in bazaars — life that reveals the traditions and customs of the Iranian people in a non-judgmental manner. My purpose to reveal an essence and spirit that Americans will be able to relate to.
I feel this is a significant and timely story due to the long silence between Iran and the Western world. This is also a period of change for Iran. In May of 1997, more than 20 million defied their country’s leadership by electing Seyid Mohammed Khatami as their president. The election of Khatami demonstrated the call for more freedom, a call made by the young people who are taking their country through a new revolution.
In this photographic essay, I will also explore some of the many cultures that live in Iran—the minority ethnic groups that reside among this dominant Muslim society. I will focus on the large population of Christian Armenians living in Iran and the role they play in a Muslim country. On the whole, racial conflict is not a problem in Iran. The Iranian government, with a few exceptions, allows minority cultures to explore and practice their religion. I will photograph the Christian life and the repercussions of choosing to live in a Muslim country.
Apart from the fact that pictures and reports of Iran have been very limited in the western world since the fall of the Shah, there are several other reasons for choosing Iran as a project; reasons which are more personal.
My family and I left the country suddenly in the midst of the Islamic revolution of 1979. I was raised and lived in the United States ever since I was nine-years-old.
Coming to the United States, I left behind part of my childhood. I left behind part of my family: my uncle, aunt, cousins and grandparents. I left behind a close family that I have not seen since. So in a way, Iran is a local story for me. My neighborhood, school, and people in Iran represent a part of my childhood that I have almost forgotten.
This trip and my project will not only be a window for Americans to see and better understand Iranian culture, but also a learning experience and a way for me to see who I was and who I might have become.
My ability to communicate in Farsi and Armenian, my ties with family in Iran and my knowledge of the culture of Iranians and Armenians will immensely benefit me and make this project possible.