Review – Guest Speaker Ali MC

On 3 June 2021 Melbourne Camera Club’s Guest Speaker was Ali MC (Alister McKeich).  He gave a multi media presentation opening with his video entitled ‘Analog Iran’ followed by a video by the Iranian curator and artist Yasaman Tamizkar who responded to his work.

Fiercely intelligent, compassionate and enormously creative Ali MC (Alister McKeich) has added photojournalism to his music-making, writing and academic successes. Motivated by a strong humanitarian ethos his work has found expression in Al Jazeera, the Guardian, NITV, SBS,  Right Now Human Rights, and a book entitled “The Eyeball End”.
Ali MC provided a multimedia presentation to MCC members of his recent 4 week long photographic escapade through Iraq where he traveled from Tehran to the holy city of Mashhad, then onto Yazd on the Silk Road, then to that city of poets and fine rugs, Shiraz, and then through to the opium trade route that ran through the border town of Zahedan until finally exiting through Tabriz. For me these places were where the jewel-coloured rugs that furnish the floors of my apartment originated. I imagined a sumptuous colour palate. But Ali was not seduced by the colours. It was more the moody, dynamic range afforded by black and white film that allowed him to render more authentically his response to the lived experience of the people he encountered. He used a 35 mm film fixed-lens manual camera, composing each image for a single shot.
Perhaps in developing our art as photographers there is nothing more important than sensitivity to our own experience of the world we are photographing.
It was “the warm Persian air,”  “the smell of freshly baked flat bread” – Pink Floyd playing everywhere and the constant refrain of people greeting Ali with “welcome to Tehran” that made it comfortable enough for him to endure the underlying anxieties of the culture.  In one image he shows a scarfed woman in high heels hurrying over a hop scotch game some children had chalked onto the street.  In another, three men share a joke.

Ali’s photographs explored the many faces of ordinary people going about their lives.  Each image revealed a human story that was lived out under the surface of a harsh sociopolitical environment where the dramatic events of the day are what we usually hear about in the news. Ali’s images revealed the more mundane story of how people “… hustled and breathed under the smog of sanctions and economic insecurity”- how they found solace in friendship, how they played and worked together, brought up their children, ate together, but how, nevertheless they could express a national identity in public – the women in hijab, the men, severe and fervent in their expressions of support for the regime.  In one image women clad in black hijab overlook a vast crowd of men from their balcony. But one woman has her back to the crowd while she examines her mobile phone – a little human clue that the we are not looking at a monolithic culture. 
 “I make it obvious to people,” Ali said,  “that I am photographing so they can choose if they want to enter the frame.”  We the viewer benefit from Alis openness with people and I for one am grateful that I can experience something of a different world through his images.


By Helen Lang

The video will available on the Members Video Library page