journey to the beach where iranian teens can be free
Photographer Teo Greg traveled to the isolated Iranian beach where young people gather freely, away from the government's watch.
While traveling through Armenia last year, Lithuanian photographer Teo Greg heard rumours of an island off Iran where Iranian youths go to swim, socialise and enjoy a brief moment of freedom. The spot's isolation means there is no police presence, allowing boys and girls to mix openly, shed their clothes, play music, and swim together.
He documented his day with them, and the resulting images are a reminder that a for many, a day at the beach is the ultimate act of teen rebellion.
Hey Teo, how did you even hear about this?
The first time I heard about the beach was in Armenia, in a chat with a youthful Persian couple. Going to Iran was on my mind, and I mentioned that to them. They told me that there is a certain beach in the South of Iran that I must find.
How did they describe it?
All they mentioned to me about the place is that it is too hot in the summer, and that many Persian free spirits flock from all over Iran to spend the winter. I marked a fat red X on my map.
Tell me about actually getting there.
When I had my destination, I left Armenia and entered Iran. The second time I heard about the island was from a shopkeeper selling carpets. He had been there and told me it was a place where people gather to relax from the pressure of the strict Islamic laws that the government has imposed. There music is more important than politics.
When I arrived on the island I went straight for the beach. I had to climb down a few cliffs and power through mud. There had been a big storm and everything was wet. Then I saw a fire burning, and my ears started picking out distinct yet distant music of traditional instruments.
Where they happy to see you? Surely they'd be worried about interlopers exposing them.
I stumbled down with my heavy backpack, and was welcomed with great excitement. They were drinking wine and eating pasta, and in Persian custom offered me all they had. Many did not speak English so we communicated in Persian. I was far from fluent, but had been in the country for nearly two months and could get by with a combination of hand signals.
The space is isolated, but clearly not impossible to find, and an open secret. How do they manage to spend time here without being discovered or reported?
The fact is, there are no police in far away places like this. It attracts youth from all over Iran to spend time together without having to worry about strict Islamic laws. The beach allows people to break out: here the girls can swim in bikinis, and the men can choose to wear shorts instead of pants. The way of life imposed by the Islamic government is not favoured by many, thus its boundaries are happily left outside.
Do you worry about these kids?
I ended up spending a few weeks on the beach with the people, and that they are my good friends. When I left, we all left together. These people are traveling souls, and they do not stay in one place for too long. There is a lot of beautiful, remote nature in Iran, and they are actively looking for more.
Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Teo Greg