Negar Yaghmaian
The Smell of Earth and Tree

Maritime trade stretched across the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea. Trade was not only an economic activity but a complex web of cultural and social exchanges that strongly affected lifestyles in the region. The Smell of Earth and Tree is taken from the diary of an old sailor who recounts stories of his voyages. Like him, others remember their journeys from Iran to the West Indian Coast when tailwinds drove their dhows and stars guided them.

While seamen talk openly about these often-perilous expeditions, fellow travelers, and free ports and bazaars, they do not talk much about their private lives and family histories. The travels and long layovers in harbors led to marriages between diverse nationalities, in this case, between Indian and Iranian individuals looking to establish homes. However, with maritime trade fading away, many families were broken or separated.

To keep these experiences alive, Yaghmaian explores small towns in the Persian Gulf, seeking to maintain a connection with the past. She gathers photographs, maps, and other treasured possessions to reimagine these stories, many of which remain untold. Through the meditative practice of listening, the artist picks pieces of the sailor’s recollections and carves out contemporary renditions of their familial, cherished truths.

The Smell of Earth and Tree, 2020, 60 pages, 17x 22.5cm with soft cover


Negar Yaghmaian is a photographer living and working in Iran. She graduated with a BA in photography from Tehran Art University and completed a course in Documentary and Photojournalism at IED, Madrid. Yaghmaian is interested in personal stories and their interconnections to wider social issues. Through a contemporary lens, her photography gives access to memories embedded in the past. She was artist-in-residence at CACP Villa Perochon in France and her works have been exhibited and published both at home and internationally, including Voices Off Festival, Arte Creative Program, and Le Monde.