Iran Middle East Photo Essays

Unexpected Experiences of a Street Photographer in Iran

April 8, 2018

by Dewi Natalia 

In January, I travelled solo to Iran on a twenty-day street photography adventure, maybe not your typical holiday destination. Here’s what I witnessed on my journey.

I was asked constantly by my friends, ‘Hey, Dewi where are you going next?’ When I said Iran, my friend’s response was ‘What’s wrong with you Dewi? Are you crazy? Are you going to join ISIS? Are you going to war? Be careful you might not return home, or maybe you die there’. People always mix up with Iran and Iraq.

Oh, I’m just gonna ignore all these comments.

Many people have the mindset that Iran is a dangerous and unsafe place and think it’s crazy to even think about visiting. Well, this made me even more curious to experience Iran for myself, and not just daydream about being there from watching YouTube or Vimeo documentary videos.

I know, Iran not considered a typical vacation place for most people. The media has portrayed Iran as a country of terrorists, with George W. Bush listing Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil” and it is bordered by unstable countries.

From a long time ago I really wanted to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it’s very hard to get the visa to go. I thought that Iran was a good start before I dive into more Central Asian countries. Iran seemed like an easy country for solo travel. I read many travel blogs, asked Couchsurfing hosts and documentary videos – I realised that the results are always positive.

It’s only when I return from Iran, I tell my friends and my mother.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Mother: Wow, why did you go so far away? (I only tell my mom I was visiting Iran on my very last day there. I was worried she’d freak out).

Friends: ‘Wow you’re crazy’, ‘Wow awesome’, ‘Wow I am proud of you’, and ‘They let you out from the country??’ Then other friends said, ‘Well you have an Indonesian passport, Indonesian is no problem, Indonesia has the biggest Muslim population in the world’.

‘YEAH, Indonesia and Iran they are HOMIES.’

Then the local people in Iran asked me, ‘Why are you coming to Iran? What do you think about Iran? Please tell your friends we are not terrorist and Iran is safe.’

Iran really is a street-photographers dreamland. Every moment is a photo opportunity. If I can pass through India, for sure I am tough enough to pass through Iran.

My goal was to finish my ‘All over Asia’ dream by capturing the beauty of this country and to see the world through a different lens, to meet people and experience places that challenge my preconceptions on a journey through a land that has much to teach.

I was able to experience the positive side of Iran and its wonderful people, up close and personal, during my trip there. I’m glad I made this decision to make my Middle East obsession dream come truly alive. I can’t wait to continue with another epic journey in another “don’t go country”.

So far, Iran is the highlight of all my travels in Asia. It’s become my most memorable travel adventure.


Portraits and Street Photography in Iran

Dewi Natalia is a photographer from Indonesia who is also known around the web as For Asia Cheers. She combines her passion for travel with a strong talent for photography and connecting with local people. She has built a portfolio photographing around Asia, and hopes to see every corner of the continent. Her mission is to use the lens to capture the beauty of the world and transform that into a message which inspires and changes the way we see each other. She’s often more concerned with the people of a place, than the place itself.

  • Reply
    October 13, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Hi Dewi,
    great post! I am planning to go to Iran in November. My main goal is to experience this country and its friendly inhabitants. However I love to shoot candid photos on every street I putting my feets down. I would love to hear from you how the people react when they found out you took a candid photo of them. And also, at least for me, it takes me a while before I dare to take photos. Did you experience the same? How long did it take you?


  • Reply
    March 25, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Hi Dewi- Same as Marciano, I am wondering how people respond to having their photo taken? Great shots here.

Leave a Reply