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 Reza
Tim Mantoani
 Reza
 Reza

Reza

Country: Iran/France
Birth: 1952

A philanthropist, idealist, humanist, Reza's career began with studies in architecture. He has gone on to become a renowned photojournalist who, for the last three decades, has worked all over the world, notably for National Geographic. His assignments have taken him to over a hundred countries as a witness to humanity's conflicts and catastrophes. His work is featured in the international media (National Geographic, Time Magazine, Stern, Newsweek, El País, Paris Match, Geo...), as well as a series of books, exhibitions and documentaries made for the National Geographic Channel.

Along with his work as a photographer, since 1983 Reza has been a volunteer committed to the training of youths and women from conflict-ridden societies in the language of images, to help them strive for a better world. In 2001, he founded Ainaworld in Afghanistan, a new generation NGO which trains populations in information and communications through the development of educational tools and adapted media. While pursuing his reportages for international media outlets, Reza has continued to conduct workshops on the language of images in a variety through his association Reza Visual Academy. He works with refugees, urban youths in Europe and others from disadvantaged backgrounds.

After his work, Mémoires d'Exil ("Memories of Exile") shown at the Louvre Carrousel in 1998, he has shared his humanitarian vision through a series of monumental installations: Crossing Destinies, shown on the grilles of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, One World, One Tribe in Washington DC, and the Parc de la Villette in Paris, War + Peace at the Caen Memorial and on the banks of the Garonne in Toulouse, Hope in Doha (Qatar), Windows of the Soul in Corsica, Soul of Coffee, 250 photographic exhibitions throughout the world, including major installations on the banks of the Seine, or at Kew Gardens in London, Land of Tolerance at the UN Headquarters in New York, the European Parliament in Brussels, as well as UNESCO in Paris. In 2014, Azerbaijan: the Elegance of Fire, presented at the Petit Palais revealed a little-known people with an ancestral culture, turned towards modernity. Finally, the giant panorama A Dream of Humanity was featured along the banks of the Seine during the summer of 2015, showing portraits of refugees around the world taken by Reza and photographs taken by refugee children in Iraqi Kurdestan who were trained as "camp reporters" at the workshops organized by Reza Visual Academy.

Author of thirty books, and a recipient of many awards over the course of his career, Reza is a Fellow and Explorer of the National Geographic Society, and a Senior Fellow of the Ashoka Foundation. His work has been recognized by World Press Photo; he has also received the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, the Lucy Award, an honorary medal from the University of Missouri and the honorary degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from the American University of Paris. France has also appointed him a Chevalier of the National Order of Merit.
 

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After The Office, he created the Study for Women series, which comprises a number of female portraits that refer to the magic realism art movement. In this series, produced in the period 2000-2002, he displayed the form language with which he would soon gain worldwide recognition. The Study in Green series from 2003-2004, the Untitled series from 2004, and the three closely related series World, Moon and Venus, which he began in 2005, represented Van Empel’s true international breakthrough. Curator Deborah Klochko invited him to participate in the exhibition entitled Picturing Eden in the George Eastman House. In the book Ruud van Empel Photoworks 1995-2010, she wrote: ‘Van Empel’s virtuosity lies in his capacity to combine in photography the kind of ideas anchored in painting (historical references, the power of a glimpse, use of colour) and cinema (structure with multiple images and the power of a narrative), and to do so on a large scale. To understand his work you must ask yourself: ‘Is it science or art? Is it real or imaginary? Is innocence or decadence?’ Particularly the World series, which explores the theme of innocence, made a deep impression. These works were inspired by photos taken by his father. Van Empel placed neatly dressed, black boys and girls in paradisical settings of unspoiled, non-existent natural surroundings. Great interest in and appreciation of this series are expressed worldwide to this day. The breakthrough in America also led to renewed attention in Dutch museums. Van Empel has had solo exhibitions in Museum Het Valkhof in Nijmegen, the Groninger Museum and the NoordBrabants Museum in ’s-Hertogenbosch. Since the international recognition of his work gave Ruud Van Empel the status of an artist with an own independent form language, he has progressively extended his oeuvre with the Theatre series from 2010-2013, and Souvenir, which provided a charged picture of his youth in Breda. This series was purchased by the NoordBrabants Museum. A typical feature of the work of Ruud van Empel is the composition of a perfected and idealized representation right down to the finest details. But this always has a darker side, albeit not always evident. Ruud Schenk, curator of the Groninger Museum, wrote about that aspect with reference to the Study for Women series (2000-2002): ‘As a spectator you feel that there is something not quite right about the depiction of the women: they are not completely lifelike, but tend to be a mixture of real women and window dummies. This generates a certain discomfort, an uneasiness that touches upon what was described as 'das Unheimliche' (the uncanny) at the beginning of the 20th century.’ Although the photographic images seem to capture an epoch, you can hardly assign a date to any of them. 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