Forgotten Conversation  
Images by Mehrdad Kanani

Forgotten Conversation is a 2018 series from photographer and graphic designer Mehrdad Kanani, who in searching for a radical shift in perspective forged a new relationship with nature and rediscovered both its power and fragility.

Kanani’s project stemmed from a desire to escape urban life in Tehran and reconnect with the natural world. Disillusioned with his lifestyle, all-pervasive advertising and the career ladder, he moved to a small village in Northern Iran near the Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests, which are the subject of his series. “There was an empty space in my head that I had filled unconsciously with complexity,” he says, “The initial idea came from this complexity and quitting urban life.”

At first, Kanani’s purpose was clear – completely abandon and ultimately forget the complexity of the modern world. In September 2018 he began exploring the forests - which were recently made a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and started what was to become his first series entirely set in a natural environment. His efforts to disrupt his own mindset paid off, leaving him with beguiling and moving photography which all at once reflect the stillness, force, desolation and vulnerability of nature.

“I could make a deep relationship with nature that I never had before,” he explains, “Deep relevance between humanity and nature is a forgotten issue. Besides all of the beauties and unforgettable scenes that I saw…I felt a kind of sadness with the loneliness that came from the spirit of the forests during the photography. Like a beautiful story but saddening.”

Very quickly, however, Kanani’s work took on an environmentalist perspective. Not only have we lost a relationship with nature, he argues, but we are losing any chance of rescuing one. “After a while, I realized that in the next couple of decades [the forest] will be destroyed. Maybe even next year one of the trees in the pictures will have disappeared. So I decided to show people what I see and what I comprehend.”

In amongst the elegiac tone of the series, there are other truths to be found. What stands out in Kanani’s simple approach is the ineffable beauty of nature, and its ability to help us understand ourselves. He explains: “I realized most of the things that we think are true can be false and being patient to achieve a strong relationship with nature is the key.”

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Written by Richard Ross.

Created by Duncan Woods & Seb Camilleri