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Georg Gerster’s Photographs Paradise Lost Persia

Her Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi Celebrated Georg Gerster’s
At: Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery, Saturday, April 4th – New York

Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller welcomed Her Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi, and many others from America and around the world for a cocktail reception and book signing in celebration of the opening of the exhibition Paradise Lost: Persia From Above at Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery in New York. The first-time-ever exhibition featured 29 breathtaking aerial photographs of Iran by award-winning Swiss photographer Georg Gerster, taken in the immediate years before the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution. The works were recently compiled in the book, Paradise Lost: Persia From Above, edited by Maryam Sachs and published by Phaidon Press.

In the late 1970s, Gerster was granted permission by Her Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi to record the Persian topography. It was a rare opportunity, resulting in vivid photographs that capture the rich Iranian landscapes and city structures that few people outside the country have been able to experience. Once the Revolution broke out, however, Gerster’s plan to produce a book of these photographs was brought to an immediate halt. Nearly thirty years after their execution, Her Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi and Maryam Sachs rediscovered the photographs during a visit in January 2005 to the Arts Museum Bochum in Germany where Gerster was featured in the show Persians Antike Pracht Persia’s Antique Glory). Overwhelmed to see the magnificent photos of their homeland again, Sachs used her stunning vision to bring Gerster’s photographs alive in Paradise Lost: Persia From Above which she calls her “gift to all Persians.” Indeed, the gallery is thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce these photographs to audiences of all generations who are both familiar and unfamiliar with the Persian landscape.
Georg Gerster has dedicated the book, Paradise Lost: Persia from Above to Her Majesty Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi

About the Exhibition and the Artist

In Sachs’ introduction to the book, Gerster reveals the origin of the photographs: “Flying on business over Iran,” he writes, “I had been struck by the thought that Persia’s natural and cultural landscape was predestined to be viewed from the air.” Indeed Gerster, who is hailed as a pioneer in aerial photography, allows us birds-eye-views that reveal the magnificence of the country’s architectural feats and splendid countryside. Through the photographs, we are able to explore ancient citadels and architectural sites; some, like the historic Persepolis, were built thousands of years ago.

We are also given the opportunity to view some of Persia’s most magnificent mosques in all of their luminous beauty. While such works reveal the more documentary aspects of Gerster’s works, an undoubtedly artistic approach is present in his landscape views. The abstraction of these works obscures a precise identification and evokes a sense of mystery as to place and location. At the same time, Gerster still presents his audience with photographs that capture the stunning beauty of Persia’s landscapes, especially when seen from above.

Opening of Georg Gerster at Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery, East 78th St. – April 4, 2009, Leila Heller, Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi, and Henry Heller. Photo©Patrick McMullan.
GEORG GERSTER’S career spans over 40 years of aerial photography in 111 countries and six continents. Born in Winterthur, Switzerland in 1928, Georg received his doctorate from Zurich University. Since 1956 he has been a freelance journalist and has worked on a regular basis for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the Washington-based National Geographic. He has undertaken extensive visits to every part of the world and resides near Zurich.