Photography Articles

This text is the postscript of Nasrolah Kasraian in his book called "The Ship". It includes also a number of his photos.

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The Ship

Nasrollah Kasraian

Iran, 1999

It was one of my trips to take photographs of the South of Iran, from Bandar Abbas to Bushir, ten or fifteen km before Kangan, I saw its silhouette, though not very visible; not that you could take it for a camel or a jeep, no, it looked like a ship, it was a ship and at the same time, it was not. I did not know of any harbor or anchorage suitable for ships to berth in those parts, to tell the truth it had seemed to me a little bigger than what I found out later-some say due to a phenomenon in physics things look bigger when they are farther. Anyhow, I could not ignore it, because I had seen it. So I had to find my way to the shore and I did, it was not more than two or three km away….

As soon as I got out of the car, a strange feeling captured me, like the followers of certain religion, who when dead go to grave with their best clothes on, it was calm and motionless adorned in many-colored and very beautiful attire, with naked legs, run aground to the knees in the shallow waters on the border of an open grave as wide as Persian Gulf, with a blue ultramarine sky as its background.

It is a strange and painful feeling to see the death of someone who has walked, talked, jested and laughed. After hundreds of thousands of years and the death of billions of people, still we don’t believe in death; we still don’t believe how easily a human being with all the beauty, has can become a lifeless log and fall in a corner as though he/she has never been able to do a thing. Upon seeing the ship, I was exactly captured by this feeling. I don’t know how long, a second or some minutes, it took me to go over all the trips it had made, all the seas it had traveled over, all the waves it had cleaved with its breast, all the storm it had weathered, all the various seaports it had seen, all the cargo and people it had carried on its back or, at night, hands under their heads had contemplated the stars and remembered their beloved and children… I don’t know, I only know that I could not believe that it had spent many night over the sea with its lights an and then it had fallen silently on the shore. I still could hear the cry it emitted in the foggy nights as the sigh of its fear of clashing with the big ships. A bizarre feeling of sorrow had gripped on my soul and I saw continually comparing myself with it.

Before coming to the world, it could have been anything but certainly not a ship, but why not a ship? Perhaps it has been another ship, or simply sheets and ingots made of some other iron object, and lumber taken from a jungle at the feet of the Himalayas Mountain or on the borders of the river Amazon plus gears made of steel, tins of paints. And what about me? And what I have been before coming to the world, before becoming a fetus within my mother’s womb, a stalk of wheat, a bean plant, a piece of beef or the earth women in their craving eat in handfuls!

I don’t know, I don’t know anything in this regard, I don’t know if these were enough for making me or not, I don’t know if the walnut tree also has played a part in my birth or not, I don’t know, I don’t know anything at all. I just know that with some of these articles one can cook a meal; I know in those times mother alone couldn’t make a child, who then has become me, now with a camera huge on my shoulder moving hither and thither.

Father says he has seen mother in the queue outside the baker’s- that now in some cities is iron paneled to segregate women from men- and he has lost his heart to her. I don’t know the meaning of losing the heart, indeed where is the heart? But, I know there has been war, I know there has been famine and I know there have been the sheets of Boroujerd’s bread and that my father, has followed mother to her uncle’s house… and if the second world war- a war for redistributing the spoils that apparently had nothing to do with my father and my mother- the famine, the queue outside the baker’s the sheets of Boroujerd’s bread have played their parts in my birth, why should not the walnut tree have a role in all this too. I don’t know, but what seems clear is that I have been born, as this ship has been, which means in fact one day those iron sheets and ingots, lumber and tins of paints have been called ship, exactly like me, who was given a name.

I have started to walk, the ship has started to navigate, me over the land and the ship over the sea, me from this city to that and the ship from this port to that, me from this bed to that, the ship from this sea to that. I am getting old, the ship also has become old. I am still alive, but the ship is not, not that it is not alive, it is and at the same time it is not; it is alive but does not move. For the time being I am photographing it; will somebody photograph me in the same situation one day? Is it possible to will to be left on the seaside under the sunlight after my death? Will the mark of wounds I have received remain as beautiful as this? I think, lucky ship!

With a camera that had not more than a few frames of film, I put my feet on its shoulder- as in cemetery we walk dauntlessly on the graves- and now I saw that I have to put a new film in my camera; by finishing the third roll, fellow traveler was surely thinking that I had lost my mind, otherwise a dilapidated ship could be not worth that many photographs.

Next year, I went to see it in the spring, it still was there and motionless as before; two years later, I went in autumn, and only its wounds had changed color; three years later in the winter, gray cloud were moving soft and slowly in the sky in its background.

I did not go until last year, fourteen years after our first encounter, and it was not there anymore, I could not believe, I could not believe that it had been annihilated completely, until I went to the edge of the water to find its remains. I did not calm down, all that remained of it was half a skeleton that, apparently, situated in water could not have been cut to pieces by oxy-acetylene gas. It has been taken to the iron foundry. We had become friends. I keep its memory alive.