An unprecedented look inside Iran from a Getty photographer

Iran16John Moore/Getty ImagesA sheepherder in Nasrabad, near the major city of Isfahan.

Ever since Getty photographer John Moore visited Iran 10 years ago to cover parliamentary elections in Tehran, he’s had an itch to experience the country behind the headlines. He finally got his chance this past June when he was approved to tour the country on a one-week trip from Shiraz to Tehran.

Mostly free from the constraints of traditional news — he did happen to document the 25th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini along the way — Moore visited Iran’s most prominent cities, monuments, and squares for a look at the everyday life of average Iranians.

Though he had been pleasantly surprised by Iranian hospitality on his trip 10 years ago, he was again struck by how friendly, open, and hospitable most Iranians were to him, an American photographer documenting their country.

We’ve collected a selection of Moore’s photos from the trip here. More of his work can be seen on Getty’s Reportage website.

Moore began his trip in Shiraz, one of the country's most progressive cities. Shiraz is a stronghold of Persian culture, thanks to its support of Iranian poetry, a large academic community, and numerous monuments.

Shiraz is the economic hub of southern Iran, producing fruits, cotton, and rice. In addition to agriculture and cement production, the city is a center for Iran's IT, communications, and electronics industries. Numerous construction projects are underway, aimed at improving the city's infrastructure.

The Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz is one of the oldest and largest bazaars in Iran. It was first established in the 11th century. Here, a carpet vendor naps during his lunch break.

Customers shop at the Father Noel grocery store in Shiraz.

After leaving Shiraz, Moore headed north with his driver and translator, provided by Ivan Sahar, an Iranian agency that navigates the bureaucratic labyrinth of the government for journalists.

Moore applied for a Visa to visit Iran in early 2014. It took 3 months to process his request. He was told that the process was usually much shorter but that there was a glitch. Iran's bureaucratic structure is nearly impossible for American journalists to navigate, he says.

He applied for a 2-week visa but was granted only one week. The government -- which had to approve every aspect of his itinerary -- OK'd all his other requests. This is the 'Gate Of All Nations' in the ancient city of Persepolis, the capital of the Achaemenid Empire.

And this is a traditional 'ice-house' in Abarqu, where Iranians store ice from the winter to last through the summer months.

Moore's main goal was to connect with average Iranians, like this sheepherder in Nasrabad, near the major city of Isfahan. Moore says that he was surprised at the reaction he received from Iranians when he told them he was American. 'People would look at with me with surprise and shock, but then would be immediately very welcoming,' Moore says.

Every Iranian Moore talked to expressed frustration with the impact of international sanctions on Iranian society. Gas prices have risen dramatically in recent months as President Hassan Rouhani has tried to bring down Iran's budget deficit. Sanctions and price increases inordinately affect lower- and middle-class Iranians.

Moore next travelled to the city of Yazd, one of the hottest and driest cities in Iran.

Yazd is known as a center of Persian architecture. The climate forced architects to come up with creative solutions to the heat. Numerous buildings are built with 'wind towers' that catch wind and funnel it into the building, providing natural air-conditioning.

The city is also a center of Zoroastrianism, an ancient Iranian religion that, despite the dominance of Islam, still has influence in Iran. Here, a cleric stokes the coals of the 'eternal flame' at the Fire Temple in Yazd. It is said to be burning continuously since 470 A.D.

This is an exercise club in Yazd where men swing clubs to build strength. The club is built inside a water reservoir, cooled by wind towers.

The next major city that Moore visited was Isfahan, Iran's third-largest city. It is filled with history and monuments, including churches, gardens, tombs, mosques, museums, and palaces. Moore says that Naqsh-e Jahan Square was his favourite place to people-watch on the trip. Of spending time in the square, Moore says: 'It makes you realise how people everywhere are the same in many ways.'

The Bazar-e-Bozorg is Isfahan's main bazaar. Though more than a thousand years old, it is still a major part of trade and culture in the city.

Persian carpets, like those sold here at the Bazar-e-Bozorg, are renowned for their quality. Carpets are one of Iran's main export items, but sanctions have severely hurt the trade.

Larger cities like Tehran and Isfahan have upscale shopping malls where shoppers can buy just about any luxury good they want. This is the Isfahan City Center shopping mall, which will be the largest shopping center in Iran when it is finished. It has a 5-star hotel, a financial center, a movie theatre, and a complex for fairs.

Moore says that one of the most surprising things about his trip was how -- unlike other Islamic nations he has visited -- the men and women were open to being photographed. Here, two women shop at the Daewoo appliance store.

Moore says that there are unlicensed 'Apple' stores in major cities where wealthy Iranians can purchase just about any Apple product they want.

Apple products in Iran have usually been purchased elsewhere in the Middle East and imported. They sell for a high premium.

'You can buy whatever you want so long as you have the money to pay for it,' Moore says. This is a HyperStar Market, a venture by French superstore chain Carrefour.

Moore was sure to visit most of Iran's major tourist attractions. Abyaneh is one of Iran's oldest towns. Built on an ancient Sassanid fort and boasting a population of 305 people, Abyaneh is a popular destination during traditional holidays.

While Iranian society is far from equal, women enjoy numerous rights not allowed in other Islamic countries. Women are allowed to drive, hold public office, and attend university (65% of university students are women).

Next, Moore travelled to Qom, one of Iran's most conservative cities. Even in Qom, Iranians were friendly to Moore and open to being photographed.

Qom is considered holy in Shi'a Islam and is the largest center of Shi'a scholarship in the world. Here, two clerics sit for coffee before prayers.

Moore says that a common sentiment among the Iranians that he met was a genuine desire to have a bigger role in the international community, as well as a modern economy.

The last stop on Moore's trip was Tehran, the capital city. When Moore arrived, it was the 25th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini. These are buses carrying pilgrims from the countryside to Tehran for the commemoration.

The anniversary was a big event. Tens of thousands of people came to pay their respects at the Ayatollah's mausoleum.

The crowd at the anniversary was handpicked. Security was tight, and people were forced to hand in their mobile phones before entering.

The current leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, gave a fiery anti-American speech during the anniversary. Moore says that many in the conservative crowd chanted 'Death to America.'

When Moore went up to people one by one and introduced himself, he encountered none of the animosity that he expected. 'I think that slogan ('Death to America') is abstract at this point.' Moore conceded that there was some anti-American sentiment among the public but said that it was definitely the minority.

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