A member of the prestigious photo agency Magnum since 1981, Iranian-French Abbas is among the living legends of photography, revered for his striking monochrome photographs on political issues, life of societies in conflict, and religious themes.
With five decades of experience in his credit belt, French-Iranian Abbas Attar remains one of the important photographers of modern times. Esteemed for his essays and striking black and white photographs on wars and conflicts, political issues, social matters, and even religious themes, Abbas is at the forefront of photojournalism, always aiming to present the story and evidence but leaving the interpretation to his readers.
A member of the elite photo agency Magnum since 1981, Abbas may well be a perfect fit for the photojournalists’ collective established in 1947 by war correspondents such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. Said to have been inspired to take the photojournalism path by the outbreak of the Algerian War of Independence, he took mass communications in England then moved to Paris.
Come early 1970s, Abbas had already gained significant experience in photojournalism, having photographed conflicts in South Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Northern Ireland. He also went on to document the Iranian Revolution, the resurgence of Islam from Xinjiang to Morocco, and wars and revolutions in other locations such as Biafra, South Africa, Chile, Cuba, and the Middle East. Aside from Islam, among the religious themes he explored with his photography are animism, Christianity as a political and spiritual phenomenon, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
All of these amount to a colorful career in documentary photography worthy of the prestige and acclaim that comes with a Magnum membership, don’t you think?
On his photography, Abbas wrote:
“My photography is a reflection, which comes to life in action and leads to meditation. Spontaneity – the suspended moment – intervenes during action, in the viewfinder. A reflection on the subject precedes it. A meditation on finality follows it, and it is here, during this exalting and fragile moment, that the real photographic writing develops, sequencing the images. For this reason a writer’s spirit is necessary to this enterprise. Isn’t photography ‘writing with light?’ But with the difference that while the writer possesses his word, the photographer is himself possessed by his photo, by the limit of the real which he must transcend so as not to become its prisoner.