Q&A with Pezhman Zahed

Pezhman Zahed, 1950 from BLOWBACK, 2013 – silver-gelatin print, 20 x 20”

Today’s Q&A is with artist Pezhman Zahed, whose latest project involves the creation of innovative patterns inspired by the financial records of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) prior to the nationalisation of the oil industry in Iran. Zahed works with economic data and examines the possibility of transforming non-visual data into visual forms.

The project, entitled BLOWBACK, demonstrates excited fluids under the effect of sound waves with particular frequencies. The figures used to generate the frequencies correspond to the company’s net profits, royalties to Iran and, where applicable, British taxes during the most critical years of the company’s activity in Iran.

1. Could you tell us a bit more about your background in art/photography?

I am an engineering dropout from Iran and I studied BA Photography at the University of Brighton. My work doesn’t question the materiality of photographs.

2. What are the biggest inspirations behind your work?

The biggest inspiration behind my work is the draconian economic sanctions on Iran.

Some of my personal influences are Mike Kelley, Juergen Teller, Jim Jarmusch, Abbas Kiarostami, Louis CK, James Holden, Natalie Jeremijenko and Jacques Derrida. Too many Js.

3. Tell us more about your creative process and how you decide on which images you like.

It varies depending on the project. In case of BLOWBACK, I use an amplifier and a subwoofer with a dish of water and ink on top in the studio. I generate pure tones with particular frequencies such that unique patterns appear on the surface of water. Then I drip some black ink, wait for a fraction of a second and release the shutter.

I repeat this process for each combination of frequencies a number of times, then scan all my negatives and choose the ones I want to print in darkroom. The figures used to generate these frequencies are taken from the financial records of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in certain years.

4. Which images are your favourite?

1949 and 1943.

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