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Mirza Riza Kirmani, Prison Portraiture and the Depiction of Public Executions in Qajar Iran

image of Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication

This article focuses on two sets of images sparked by the assassination of the Iranian ruler Nasir al-Din Shah in 1896—photographs of his murderer Mirza Riza Kirmani as a prisoner and photographs of his execution—as a significant episode in the history of photography in Iran. These images are more than mere illustrations of a historical event. Rather, they mark an important semantic shift both politically and photo-historically. These photographs thus allow us to interrogate how photographs visualized power relations in late Qajar Iran, and also how their deployment evolved in the rapidly changing social and political field. The photographs of Mirza Riza Kirmani should also be understood in the context of legal and penal reforms of the period, as they make visible the changing perceptions of the criminal as a particular historical subject.

Affiliations: 1: Harvard University, Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Department of History of Art and Architecture, USA


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