Iranian Living Room - the book
PayPal tried to ban


News: a book of photographs showing domestic life in Tehran was temporarily blacklisted by online payments company PayPal for having the word "Iranian" in the title (+ slideshow).

Iranian Living Room

Iranian Living Room, the first self-published title from Italian communications research centre Fabrica, features images taken by young photographers in Tehran in their own homes to create a personal view of everyday life in the Iranian capital.

Yet when it went on sale earlier this week, PayPal added it to its blacklist of forbidden goods and services, meaning customers could not buy it.

Iranian Living Room

Fabrica CEO Dan Hill spent 48 hours trying to resolve the issue with PayPal, only to be told all payments had been blocked "because the book had the word 'Iranian' in the title," he wrote on his blog.

To overcome the issue, an account manager at PayPal suggested removing the word "Iranian" from the book's title. "Leaving aside the fact that of course we don't want to change the name of our book in the shopping cart, I find this politically-motivated censorship, willingly if not actively carried out by a corporation, absolutely despicable," Hill wrote.

Iranian Living Room

After an outcry from followers of Hill's City of Sound blog and Twitter account, PayPal removed the book from their blacklist on Wednesday night, allowing the book to go on sale.

Iranian Living Room is a project that captures the interior lives of Iranian people, at home in their domestic private spaces. "The book is really a very humble project in a way," Hill told Dezeen.

Iranian Living Room

Enrico Bossan, head of photography at Fabrica, asked 15 young Iranian photographers to take pictures of their "interior life" in Tehran. "In the West we just don't see that. With a state like Iran we usually see it framed through the lenses of the BBC or CNN. It's invariably protests on the street or elections on the street," said Hill.

"And of course in Tehran, like many other cities, those conversations go on in people's living rooms or domestic private spaces," he added. "And in those living rooms people are not a million miles away from where we are. It was a very simple idea that we could show someone falling asleep in front of the telly. Or people together or cooking food. And in doing so it would highlight this other side of Iran than people don't see."

Iranian Living Room by Fabrica

Fabrica is publishing the book itself and selling it via the internet, rather than collaborating with a mainstream publisher as it has in the past, in order to "move on from very 20th Century model of publishing that most people are still engaged with," he added.

Hill said he was tempted to investigate PayPal's secret blacklists as his next project. "I'd like to do another Fabrica project about these hidden blacklists," he said. "That would be an amazing thing to do."

  • Yoni

    This looks very similar to my life. I’m from Israel.

    • Rami

      You mean you’re from Europe, living in Palestine.

      • Yuval

        Most Jews in Israel have their origins in the Middle East or north Africa, and you can’t always tell by their given name whether they originated in Europe or in the Muslim world. So your assumption that Yoni came from Europe is unfounded. For example, his family could have come from Iran.

      • Getoverit

        There we go. Let the hate-fest begin.

  • Rick

    These people live like slobs!

  • beatrice

    That’s a lot of chairs in one room!

  • Prite33

    Wow sooo cool. Those people look sooo happy. Lets all move to Iran. Not!

  • No bed, but it could be also my living room in Europe.

  • bonsaiman

    And you have the sensibility, understanding and manners of a worm.

    • bonsaiman

      This went very wrong! It was supposed to be a reply to that Rick guy up there.

  • Interesting post as much for the book as the polemic around it. What’s fascinating is how ordinary these spaces are, like the ones we all go home to.

  • greg hitch

    Paypal bans the word Iranian and yet as of June, along with the decision of Ebay’s board of directors, goes aggressively into the sordid market of online adult. Found this: Paypal and Ebay will do anything for money and clearly they have completely lost the plot.

  • roman

    Too much of Iran. Nothing special among these pictures. Just boring everyday life.

  • behzad

    This is the life of affluent families. In Iran the majority of people cannot have this lifestyle and these amusements. The photographer in these pictures wants to show a false rich face from Iran to the world. Do not believe these pictures.

    Behzad, from Iran.

    • Aref Karimi

      F*** off mate! Does that old man in track pants who is laying on the ground look affluent?!

    • Amir

      Im also from Iran, Tehran. At least 70 per cent of families have much better conditions than these photos.

      • Agree. That’s what I have seen, at least, in Tehran.

    • Middle-class families, maybe. Affluent, definitely not. You probably have no clue how the ‘affluent’ Tehranis live now. Seriously!

  • Mike

    Opposing to Behzad: this is a fair section of Iranian society lifestyle. I am Iranian. I am not sure what lifestyle you enjoy?!

  • adam

    I love this photo with the green chair. It’s fantastic.

  • Azita

    All I remember from Iranian life style is totally different from these purposely posed ugly pictures. If you want to become a famous as an artist, show the true face of reality, not only what your short-sided vision allows you.

  • behzad

    To Mike:

    No, this is not fair section of Iranian society.

    I have M.Sc. in civil engineering but I can not find any job even with low earnings (400$ per month). With this rough situation, how can I have my own single home and dance with my girlfriend or have other fun like in these pictures?

    This lifestyle that shows in these pictures is the peculiar of the capitalist class in Iran, rich dad’s sons, for examples sons of mullahs. The majority of youth in Iran can never have this lifestyle. Please open your eyes and do not see just yourself and your family.

    International sanctions against Iran have made the rich richer and the poor poorer and will destroy the middle class in Iran.

    • Your first sentence is correct. But nobody claims it to be representative of “Iranian society”. This is just a representation of middle class Tehran. (Middle-class is a broad definition, as you know.)

      One can understand your frustration with career and life in a sanctions-hurt Iran. But you are wrong with claims of these pictures representing “rich Iranians”. Not so. Iran, even after decades of debilitating sanctions, remains a middle income country. Yes, there are poor people. That’s true of Europe too.

      Your last para I (and anyone) will readily agree with. Sanctions have hurt the middle-class the most and made poor people even poorer.

      You seem to have missed the purpose of this book.

  • Sanaz

    I’m Iranian and I can confirm this is how the majority of Iranian live, especially in the Urban areas like Tehran, Mashaad, Esfahan, Shiraz.

    Most of these people are middle class. This is the lifestyle of Middle Class Iranians in Iran.

  • Ali

    To behzad

    Are you sure that you saw all of these pictures? Middle class people living in Iran are so similar to what these pictures show. I think you could not find a job and you are angry!

  • Amin

    This isn’t true! For example: dogs aren’t popular in Iran. Most Iranians cover all the surface by carpets. And one question: why can we see smoking in most of the pictures? Is there any intention by showing these?

    I think these look more like other countries than Iran.

    • Aref Karimi

      You either have left Iran years ago, or you live in a village. Things have changed in Iran!!