Spectacular images of a mosque in Iran have been flying around the internet of stunning Islamic architecture washed in rainbow-bright hues. The forms are familiar – pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, surfaces covered with dazzling tiles. But the magic occurs at daybreak, when sunlight streams through stained glass windows, turning the interiors into a stunning kaleidoscope. The pictures aren’t Photoshopped or digitally enhanced. This is simply the intersection of architecture and sunlight.
Iranian photographer Ramin Rahmani Nejad Asil captured these moments, which reoccur daily in the Nasīr al-Mulk mosque, in the southern city of Shiraz, his hometown. Green Prophet caught up with him for more of the back story.
Green Prophet: How did you start in photography?
Ramin Nejad: I started as an amateur five years ago when I bought my first camera. I am self-taught, from books, videos and help from my friends. My favorite subjects are everything that’s full of light and color, and Iran’s mosques and historical buildings offer plenty of both. But I’m also trying other subjects.
GP: How did you come to take the kaleidoscope mosque pictures?
RN: I was familiar with Nasir al-Molk Mosque, it’s in my city, and many locals believe that this is the most exquisite mosque in the world. I started to rediscover the places around me from inside my camera viewfinder, and I saw this mosque in a completely new way. It’s a wonderland full of color and light and beautiful Iranian architectural details.
I’ve been photographing it for about 2 years, in different seasons and times of day. Seeing the mosque in different lights can completely change the appearance of the rooms. The light reflects off the mosaic tiles. It’s simply beautiful.
Designed by Muhammad Hasan-e-Memar and Muhammad Reza Kashi Paz-e-Shirazi, it features a traditional layout with vaulted ceilings and walls covered with seven colors of tile. It took twelve years to construct, opening in 1888 and still in use today under the protection of the Nasir al Mulk’s Endowment Foundation.
Stained glass windows are standard issue for Christian churches, but in mosques? According to the 30-year-old photographer, they are commonplace in Iran. He estimates that around 300,000 people visit the mosque each year, to pray and admire the design. Only early morning visitors experience the magical light show when the intense color of the glass windows plays against its decorated walls and richly patterned carpets.
RN: Playing with the different lights, colors and reflections, can produce spectacular images. Beyond the color play, the mosque features perfectly designed arches, spires and sculptures throughout. I always try to capture the incredible symmetry and perspective in the architecture. I call this series “The Mosque of Colors” collection, photographed by me in about 2 years from January 2013 to January 2015.
GP: Where can readers see more of your work?
The stunning transformation of space when bathed in recurrent sunrise illustrates the quip credited to German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “God is in the details”.
All images are courtesy of Ramin Rahmani Nejad Asil