Sacred Memories

Each year more than 20 million pilgrims travel to the city of Mashhad, some 900 kilometers east of Tehran, to visit the holy shrine of Imam Reza, the 8th Shiite Imam who was killed more than 1200 years ago. Mashhad is the world’s second top pilgrim destination after the holy city of Mecca. Most pilgrims from different racial and social backgrounds take pictures locally known as Pilgrim Photos to save memories of their holy trip. The main characteristic of such photos is using painted pictures of the holy shrines as backdrop. The backdrops depict the dome and the shrine as well as characters of religious folk stories as well as animals. By looking at the pictures, the pilgrim would later conjure up the mystical moments of the pilgrimage and would share the memory with others. However, with digital cameras and mobile phones becoming mainstream and widely available, this 90-year-old photography genre is in danger of getting obsolete. Plus as the photos were not archived properly the photos are gaining historical and artistic significance.