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As the teasing May sunshine keeps London on its toes, the cool quiet of the Somerset House Terrace Rooms may not be the destination of choice.

But, with wistful portraiture, a peek in to Iranian socio-politics and the remnants of repressive government, Burnt Generation is well worth a shady detour. Plus, it’s only open until the first of June, so you may not have time to wait for a drizzly day.

The works of eight Iranian-born photographers fall vaguely in to three categories; the consequence of war, common experiences and the desolation of modern youth. Yes, violence and conflict do crop up a lot, whether they’re brutal, domestic or a little bit playful, but, it’s not all doom and gloom. Between Kalashnikovs and a front-line-pilgrimage, you’ll find human stories with a little bit of sass.

But first, Babak Kazemi dives headfirst in to the destruction of the Iran-Iraq war. Born close to the border town of Khoramshahr, he openly blames the nearby oil fields for the political upheaval of his childhood. He collected war-ruined plaques of house numbers of Khoramshahr and used oil to print them with images of the war-torn town. It screams of displacement, and while it’s not exactly pretty, it definitely gets you feeling contemplative.

Other pieces are less explicit. Shadi Ghadirian’s White Square is a simple series of military objects dressed up in a red silk ribbon, feminising them to almost comic effect, while Gohar Dashti shows crowds of adults squished in to a children’s slide, or queuing for nothing, all in sparse desert surrounds.

Just next door Abbas Kowasair celebrates light with pictures of families frolicking among festival colours and streets draped in kaleidoscopic lanterns. Next to this, Sadegh Tirafhan surrounds a particularly toned male upper body with traditionally-printed Persian symbols. The model’s pose is delicate and proud, blending modern metrosexuality and overt nakedness with a conservative Persian past.

There’s a lot to be sad about in recent Iranian history, but there’s plenty to celebrate too. A disillusioned artistic youth prod their cameras in to some of the region’s most sensitive subjects, and they find beauty in it without even digging particularly deeply.

If there’s one thing to do in the city before the end of the month, this is it. So take your ice cream somewhere it won’t melt so fast. Indulge in some culture on a Sunday afternoon, and soak up some facts to impress in the pub. Trust me, Wikipedia just isn’t going to cut it with this one.

Burnt Generation is on at Somerset House until June 1

Admission is free. Click here to find out more

Image credit: Somerset House/Facebook


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Art review: Burnt Generation at Somerset House
Digital Mag

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