Photography Articles

This article is published in CPC Bulletin 14.

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Salt as Gold

Masoud Soheili

Canada, 2017

Salt dates back to some 8000 years ago in Romania and China. It was prized by ancient civilizations of Greece, Egypt, India, Rome. It had a special position in religious ceremonies as a sacred material later.

Due to Marco Polo, pieces of salt, decorated with the emperors picture, was used as coins; still it is used as coins in Ethiopia. During 1812 wars, government of America, who cannot pay the soldiers, gave them salt instead. It was officially money in Africa, and it was used to buy slaves, gold, textile, tobacco, metal tools, pepper, sugar… Ghana was a rich country with its salt mines.

Salt was processed from salt mines or by the evaporation of seawater. It is easily found around Equator, but some places, as Australia, imports 100% of the salt, they need. It is removed from the ground in Salt Desert of Iran by loader and trucks, packed and sold, no process!

It was used for trading, instead of coin and money thousands of years, until 20th century. It was GOLD! White Gold! “Salt Road” existed, as “Silk Road”! Later, salt was used to improve the quality of food.

Salt was used in Iran as money too, even in Tehran, the Capital: Namaki (saltman)
My generation reminds Namaki guys very well. They came with a donkey, with a nose-bag on; rock-salt in one side, and kitchen accessories on other side of the bag. They grabbed everything, which was not more useful in the house, and gave them salt instead. These items goes to the antique store or used store. Metals went for melding. Dried bread went to feed cows… Later, they came with a bicycle. I did not see them any more after 1980.

There are two main deserts in Central Iran: Lut and Namak (namak means salt)
A trip from Damghan City to Tabs City will goes through both these deserts, some 560 km. In the middle of this trip, we will reach to Jandagh, Chupanan, Chah Malek and Khur villages, with mud and brick ancient architecture, besides Mesr Desert. Attractive dry villages, brown people, which bring us a lot to photograph. Mesr Desert is one of the most beautiful ones in Iran; and Camels! You can have a camel ride too!

Passing Khur, we enter the Salt Desert. Earth becomes white little by little. We could see some 50 cm height of salt (or more) on the ground as we get close to Tabas City. It becomes hot and hotter, more than 50 degrees Celsius. Air condition of the car doesn’t work any more. It is a different world: White land in hot weather: Desert Snow! There are lots of abstract sceneries, for interested photographers: Salt and Dried Earth! Lots of water is needed, while you come out to take photos. Lots of Light! Huge Dept of Field! No need for tripod… ISO 100 is too much! Closed aperture, 22 to 32 is good enough. It is too difficult to catch the blue sky, even with polarized filter. It is an amazing photographing, but hard and intolerable.

Entering the Tabas City, a rest at Golshan Garden with trees and huge amount of water, will make the photographers day!


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