Looking At Persepolis

The Camera In Iran, 1850 – 1930

Opening reception: November 1, 2018, 8pm

This exhibition considers the role of the camera in Iran, focusing on photographs of Persepolis through the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. Though these pictures have diverse origins in royal albums, archaeological treatises, and travelogues, they convey a common agenda of identifying a modernising nation with the splendour of its ancient past.

The photographic documents of the ongoing excavations at Takht-e Jamshid, widely known as the ancient city of Persepolis, reveal the importance of the camera’s introduction into Iran. First introduced in 1842, only three years after the invention of the daguerreotype, photography gained traction quickly in Iran. The 1850s saw the founding of a royal photographic atelier and a sanctioned department of photography at Iran’s first university based on Western models. Also at that time, the ruling Shah began to commission photographic documents of the ruins, clearly indicating Persepolis’s significance to the monarch’s vision of national identity.

The rarely-seen prints and albums highlight expeditions by photographers such as Luigi Pesce, an Italian colonel stationed in Iran, whose thorough documentation was commissioned by the Shah; French explorer Marcel Dieulafoy, who published his extensive photographs across a five-volume folio; and the Iranian photographer Antoin Sevruguin, whose images of Persepolis appeared in magazines and travelogues. The exhibition reveals the paradoxical role of early photography at Persepolis in constructing – through ideology, archaeology, and consumer culture – a grand, mytho-historical vision of Persia to promote the rapidly modernising nation of Iran.

Looking At Persepolis: The Camera in Iran, 1850-1930 draws from major private collections and is curated by independent curator and Vancouver gallerist Pantea Haghighi. Haghighi recently curated Modernism in Iran: 1958-1978 at Griffin Art Projects, North Vancouver; and where / between, a touring exhibition of contemporary art by Iranian artists, at Equinox Gallery, Vancouver and Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge.

This presentation is part of The Polygon Gallery's new exhibition series New Perspectives: revealing diverse perspectives, untold stories, and new voices in visual art.


Tours of Looking at Persepolis will be hosted every Saturday at 2PM. To join the tour, meet at the ground floor lobby at 1:55PM. These tours are recommended for general visitors as an introduction to the exhibition.

For a more tailored experience, visitors are encouraged to book a private guided tour with a member of our curatorial team. For more information about private tours, visit the Contact Us page, or email tours@thepolygon.ca.


Saturday, November 3 at 1pm | Tour of Looking at Persepolis with Pantea Haghighi and Elmar Seibel

Image: Antoin Sevruguin, Takht-e Jamshid (Persepolis), c. 1880 (detail), albumen print, collection of Azita Bina and Elmar W. Seibel


Exhibition Presenting Sponsor Denna Homes

New Perspectives Presenting Sponsor Td Bank Group The Ready Commitment

Education Partner: Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation Exhibition Donors - Text Recognition

Connections, meanings, and challenges.

What was your experience with this exhibition?

Experience The Polygon in the best way possible.

Members are among those who are closest to The Polygon’s work in the community and beyond. By contributing to a strong foundation of support, Members enjoy exclusive front-of-the-line privileges while helping to provide artists with a platform for their work, facilitate lifelong learning opportunities, and so much more.


facebook twitter instagram spotify

Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play

Visit the Polygon
Ground Floor Gallery and Shop open
Thursday – Friday, 11:00am – 9:00pm
Saturday – Sunday, 10:00am – 5:00pm

101 Carrie Cates Court
North Vancouver, BC V7M 3J4

Situated on the unceded territories of the Skwxwú7mesh, Tsleil-Waututh, and xwməθkwəýəm Nations.

The Polygon Gallery continues the forty-year reputation of Presentation House Gallery in engaging the public with the most visionary artists of our time. A new waterfront landmark on Vancouver's North Shore, The Polygon offers a one-of-a-kind space to encounter contemporary visual art with a focus on photography.

Community Leader for Accessibility Slice 1