#LightboxFF: On the Streets of Tehran with Ako Salemi

Ako Salemi

Welcome to this week’s edition of TIME LightBox Follow Friday, a series where we feature the work of photographers using Instagram in new, interesting and engaging ways. Each week we will introduce you to the person behind the feed through his or her pictures and an interview with the photographer.

This week on #LightBoxFF, TIME speaks to Iranian photographer Ako Salemi  (@f64s125). Inspired by cinema, Salemi brings an artful vision of Tehran to his Instagram feed through street scenes that recall old Hollywood and classic film noir. 


LightBox: Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in photography

Ako Salemi: I was born in a small town called Bukan in Kurdistan province in Iran in 1981. As a child I had a passion for reading. I was particularly interested in poetry. I moved to Tehran when I was fourteen. In high school I developed a strong interest for cinema and watching classic movies with friends became my main hobby. I was a fan of Billy Wilder, Carol Reed, Alfred Hitchcock, Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman. I initially intended to become a film maker and I got a degree in drama. Later I realized that my shy and introvert character better suited an art that can be made in solitude. So I started to express my visual ideas through photography.

LightBox: When and how did you end up using Instagram?

Ako Salemi: I’ve been working as a photojournalist for eight years. I became interested in mobile photography a couple of years ago as it gave me a lot of freedom for street photography. I joined Instagram almost exactly three years ago.

LightBox: Where do you usually photograph? What kind of things are you most drawn to photograph?

AS: Tehran is my main location for my pictures (Editor’s Note: All the photographs seen here are from the capital except the one below, which is from Kish Island, south of mainland Iran). I try to keep myself ready at any given moment. Sometimes I shoot from the hip but often I wait for ‘the decisive moment’ when the action, the light and all other elements make the right composition. I’m very interested in how light and composition play in my photos and I shoot wherever I find the right graphic elements.

LightBox: What do you hope the viewers will see in your photographs? What does Instagram provide for you that other platforms don’t?

AS: I hope my viewers will get a sense of daily life of Tehran as I see it through lights, shadows, lines, etc. As a person who has always expressed himself with images, it feels great to know so many people are seeing your photos everyday on Instagram. It’s as if I was having a dialogue with each of these Instagram friends. I like other platforms such as EyeEm as well, but the number of visitors to IG is larger, so I prefer it!

LightBox:  Who do you follow on Instagram?

AS: I mostly follow mobile street photographers, photojournalists, photo agencies and their editors. I don’t like to see pictures of food, pets or selfies in my feed. My role model in mobile photography is Richard Koci Hernandez (@koci).


Ako Salemi is an Iranian photographer based in Tehran. Follow him on Instagram @f64s125.

Mikko Takkunen  is an Associate Photo Editor at Time.com. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism


See more from TIME’s #LightBoxFF series here

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