Paradise lost: Persia from above

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Phiadon Press, Feb 28, 2009 - Photography - 184 pages
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In 1976 and 1978, aerial photographer Georg Gerster had the rare opportunity to record the landscape of Iran on over 100 flights and 300 flying hours. This unique photographic project resulted in a near complete documentation of the major archaeological sites and important landscapes in the region. The book includes spectacular images of ancient citadels, desert ruins and rice fields spreading like a vast patchwork in a river delta, along with many unexpected sights, such as the bird's eye view of a crowded ski resort in the Elburz mountains, within easy reach of Tehran. Persia's densely packed cities like Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, are elegantly captured by Gerster and look so very different from Western European or North American cities of the same period.Persia's complex, interlocking flat-roofed buildings are both timeless and timely, with architecture that has stood unchaged for thousands of years, along with brightly-coloured 1970s cars parked in the colonnaded courtyards. Even the Persian landscape contains surprises: on closer inspection, the elaborate patterns made in fields with tractors and ploughs turn out to have more to do with politics than agriculture or land art - a law at the time allowed people to claim unused land by planting crops on it, and this type of 'agridoodle' was apparently enough to support such a claim.Persia is the anchient name of the region we now know as Iran. We still reference the country's long and rich cultural heritage when we speak of Persian carpets and Persian miniatures, of Persian language, history and literature. In her introduction to this book, Iranian-born writer Maryam Sachs lists some words borrowed from Persian by English speakers, which include azure, bazaar, gazelle, magic, musk, tapestry, scarlet, narcissus and paradise. These words offer insight into the country's landscape, inhabitants and traditions - influences that have indirectly shaped its landscape.

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About the author (2009)

In addition to his work as an aerial photographer, Georg Gerster is a journalist who has contributed to many books and scientific magazines.
Charlotte Trumpler is the head of the Archaeological Collection of the Ruhrlandmuseum Essen.

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