What you ‘get’ is what you see.


The caption of this photograph at The Guardian says only, “Nowruz celebrations in Afghanistan.” Nowruz is the name of the Iranian New Year, which is celebrated in a number of countries by people of several faiths. The baskets of dried fruits eaten during the holiday provide the only visual connection to the colorful festivities, and you have to know more than the paper tells you to see that. For many viewers, this will a thoroughly conventional image of the Middle East.

How do you view a photograph when the ethnicity represented is the context? How do you view a photograph when the ethnicity is unexpected? For instance, if you were told that this photograph was taken in Des Moines Iowa, or if you were shown a photo of people putting chicken skewers on the barbie and told it was from Iran?

Read this interesting piece by Robert Hariman on “The Street, A Park, and the Unseen Middle East.”


  1. #1 Sigmund
    March 30, 2009

    “How do you view a photograph when the ethnicity is unexpected?”
    Why is the ethnicity (or behaviour) unexpected in the Iranian family scene?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    March 30, 2009

    It depends. Which is the point.

  3. #3 Stephanie Z
    March 30, 2009

    It’s a remarkable illustration of the difference between the commonly confused words “anxious” and “eager.”

  4. #4 little apples
    March 30, 2009

    I’m craving fried fruits now, thanks.

  5. #5 dreikin
    March 30, 2009

    Fried fruits? Interesting..a nutritious center surrounded by a deadly-but-tasty covering..

    I’d like it if the mass media would put out more images like the latter one – it might influence the rampant xenophobia a bit. But then, that might cut into profits.