Iran Issa-Khan: Natural Beauty Personified

Posted by Maryanne Salvat On February - 12 - 2014


Photo Courtesy of Iran Issa-Khan Studios

Photo Courtesy of Iran Issa-Khan Studios

By:  Dr. Mary Jo Almeida-Shore

Photos courtesy of Iran Issa-Khan Studios.


 “The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.”

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Edward FitzGerald


Iran Issa-Khan is nature’s perfect living work of art.  An artist herself, Issa-Khan photographed fashion for more than two decades after moving from her native Tehran to New York City, via Paris and London.  She has contributed to international editions of Harpers Bazaar and countless other publications, and has photographed numerous campaigns – most notably creating the iconic image for her long-time friend Paloma Picasso.  No stranger to the spotlight, she has been said to light up a room upon entering.


For the past twelve years Issa-Kahn’s photographic work has focused on nature’s transcending beauty and spirituality.  Her close friend and confidant, renowned architect, Dame Zaha Hadid explains, “Her characteristic photography continues to inspire, igniting the deepest of connections we all experience with the beauty and intricacy of natural forms.”  Hadid wrote the foreword for Issa-Khan’s book,  Iran Issa-Khan Photographs.


I recently visited with the artist at her Venetian Island home in Miami, for a light-hearted personal interview that reflects not only her views on life, but some of her most personal thoughts and feelings on living life to the fullest.


We know your rolodex reads like a who’s who of international artists, designers and celebrities; that Zaha Hadid’s got you on speed-dial and that Michelle Oka-Donner inspired you to switch to nature photography after decades shooting for the fashion industry.  Let’s talk about Iran Issa-Khan today.


What are three most important parts of your life right now?

Being born, living life fully, and my career.


What does spirituality mean to you?

Being true to myself and to my creator.


What are your most important material possessions and why?

I do not believe in material things. My friends are my most important possessions. What I value most is honesty, character, and loyalty.


What is your favorite place in the world- why?

Iran, the country in which I was born, but during its hey day and glory.


You often use quotes and sayings from your native Tehran and translate them to English.  Please share some of  these and what they mean.

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

“The uglier the monkey, the more it plays.”

“The heart has a road to the heart.”

“For every pot there is a cover.”


These require no explanation- they say it all!


“The Moving Finger…having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.”


This means that one’s destiny is written.  I whole-heartedly believe in this.


Tell me something no one knows about you, or a secret.

(Laughs)  I’m omnipresent.



What are your three favorite quotes?

I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.”- Rudyard Kipling


“Arrogance diminishes wisdom”- Middle Eastern proverb


“Wear a smile and have friends, wear a scowl and have wrinkles”- George Eliot


Who are your “best friends”?

I often refer to people as my “best friend” –  in actuality I have very few, but I am thankful for my many acquaintances.


You shot fashion for many years, and now you photograph nature.  What’s on the horizon regarding your next body of work?

I haven’t decided yet, but rest assured, it will have to do with beauty. Beauty is what inspires me.


I recall you saying this on more than one occasion.  What does “Don’t F%ck with the Phantom” mean?

I am the Phantom!  Enough said.


If I have heard you say “fabulous” once, I have heard you say it a thousand times.  Define “FABULOUS” Iran.

Fabulous, for me, says it all.  It is a word that encompasses everything that is the best in life.  It is kind of like love… you cannot describe it.


If you could live in any time in your life or in history- what would it be and why?

I would like to live in the future, because I don’t know it. I have already done everything else.


Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

Being loved and respected by my friends and foes.

**This article originally appeared in Design District Magazine

Leave a Reply