Photography Made Him a Criminal, Now it Will Make Him an Asset

As a teenager in Iran, Damon Amb saved his pocket money to buy films for his dad’s old Konica camera, photographing his surroundings, people and life.

For this he often paid a price in the form of beatings and harrassment.

The young enthusiast had a passion for artistic nude photography, and if he had been caught? “I would be dead.”


Damon Amb

Now in Australia, 36-year-old Amb awaits the outcome of his refugee claim and—with the help of Australian social enterprise Settlement Services International’s (SSI) initiative aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship in refugee communities—he is set to open his own photography business.

Back in Iran, he worked as a professional photographer and, after a long two-years-and-counting application process for Australian residency, is keen to contribute to use his passion and skills to ‘feel part of’ the society.

“In these two years this feeling has been killing me, that I am an illegal person. I was thinking what do people think about me? I feel like I’m returning back to life.”

He shared with SSI that, back home in Iran, art was considered one of the most serious crimes. Artists would be subject to continual visits and ever-increasing restrictions.

“I’m a criminal in my country because I’m an artist. How can I live in a land where my skills, my art, my emotions are crimes?”

Solitary Confinement / Damon Amb

For his own safety, Amb decided to specialise in a medium that would cast less scrutiny upon his pieces.

“I was (attracted) to abstract photography, instead of figurative photography and social documentary, because social documentary is a big issue in Iran. Some of the powers come to you and, depending on the power, they hurt you.”

Having left a detention centre where he spend the first part of his application process, Amb found himself in a new land without any of the quality photography equipment he had had at this disposal back in Iran. With the help of artist friends, he was able to source a camera and a computer to help him continue his work and make his own contribution to society.

“I really appreciate the freedom in Australia. I do my photography and no one cares, no one hurts me.”

Title image: Broken Arrow / Damon Amb

Images used with permission