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Every picture tells a story: San Antonio photographer captures Faces of Islam

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Ramin Samandari
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Mojgan Zarghanpanah

A photographer aspires to use his series of portraits to hold up a mirror to San Antonians so they can see precisely who they are ... and maybe see something more.

Ramin Samandari is originally from Iran, and he’s based in the Lone Star Arts District.

“Iran was going through the revolution, and it was the way my parents wanted to get me out of there so I can go to university," he said. "They were all closed universities in Iran.”

He originally studied medicine, but over time found his way to art, and finally, photography. What went on in the darkroom drew him in.

“The smell of the chemistry and the alchemy of what happens in there is what attracted me,” he said.

Samandari is now a well-established photographer, specializing in portraits. A decade ago, he began a what's now a three-part project.

“In 2012, I started doing a series on the Faces of San Antonio Artists, an ongoing series,” he said.

Then, national politics determined the focus for his next two projects.

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Ramin Samandari
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Sakib Shaikh

“One was on immigration, and one was on the Muslim community, both of whom were being disparaged by the administration at the time," Samandari said. "In a three-year period ending in 2019, I did some 300+ faces of San Antonians.”

The Institute of Texan Cultures put his Faces of Immigration series on permanent display, and now in the Lone Star Arts District at Dock Space Gallery's Annex, he’s revealing his Faces of Islam exhibition.

As he photographed his subjects, he also asked them about their experiences here.

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Ramin Samandari
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Rashin Mazaheri

“And I was also asking them a few questions about what it means to be a Muslim to them and say something about their experience of being a Muslim in the West, and particularly in San Antonio," he said. "So, some of those statements are going to be part of the show in a in a text format along with the images.”

There are 51 portraits in all. As he photographed his subjects, they opened up about their lives as South Texas Muslims.

“Overwhelmingly, what I heard from them, is that San Antonio in particular is such a welcoming community for Muslims,” Samandari said.

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Ramin Samandari
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Suhail Arastu

Second Saturday this weekend opens up several artists’ studios in the evening for foot traffic. Beer and wine and food trucks are available.

“We open from 6 to 9, and after that, it's open on Wednesdays from 10 to 5 and any other time by appointment,” he said.

At the end of the month the exhibition will move to Samandari’s studio, which is right next door within Dock Space.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii